Dawn

Tomorrow I go into hospital for surgery and almost certainly for the rest of the year I’ll be out of action. So today I ran…


It was a ludicrously cold morning, like minus three cold but I had an idea in my head that no hard frost was going to shake. Each morning this week, mindful that all physical activity is about to cease, I’ve taken to walking across the fields that form the country park the canal runs alongside. I’ve been so spellbound by the glittering iced grass and the still frozen plains amidst the watery morning sun that it’s become almost a spiritual thing. 


Each morning before a busy working day I’ve walked a few early miles in frosty silence with just the occasional bird or field mouse to break the stillness and it’s been a very special time for me. My friend, Dawn died this week and it probably triggered these walks, it’s been hard to understand how someone so full of life can suddenly not be there. 


It’s been difficult to watch her family, very close friends of ours, hurt so deeply. But strangely although I hope not disrespectfully I’ve also felt the most festive I’ve been in years; somewhere along the way Christmas becomes about food and presents and drinking and all the other awesome things that make it fun but in these cold peaceful hours I’ve found Christmas deep down in my heart. Maybe it’s been the vivid spectacle of how utterly beautiful this world is or just the uncomplicated simplicity of it all, the quiet, open fields covered in miles of clear skies. Whatever it was, every time I was there I had the overwhelming urge to run, one day I came so close to it despite wearing jeans and a parka, the only thing that stopped me was the knowledge that without a sports bra I would render myself unconscious within a few paces. But I so wanted to run across the frozen grass breathing out white air and feeling the rising sun on my face. So no matter how cold it got I knew this morning that nothing would stop me, in fact the weather report actually delighted me. 


Now you may know I’m not much of a trail runner, truth is up to about three years ago I’d never run on anything but concrete. Historically I’ve had something of a pathological fear of mud on my shoes but lately there’s been a change, a yearning to be away from the noise and surrounded by nature. Maybe I’m just knocking on a bit and getting grouchy with the urban jungle but my need to be in wide open spaces has increased dramatically. So I found myself this morning leaving the comfortable familiarity of the towpath and heading across the glistening grass.The icy ground felt strange beneath my feet and I had to slow down to stop my ankle from turning. In steady degrees I began to freeze from the toes upwards whilst the morning sun beat on my fleecy hatted head leaving me arctic from the waist down and equatorial upwards. It was so beautiful though, my breath flew out in white clouds as the frosty air hit my lungs. I ran onwards on the solitary fields following vague tracks and trails leading to who knows where. At one point I found myself back on the canal and was thrilled to see a layer of etched ice topping it while birds skated and slipped across but I quickly turned back off onto the fields and their hair raisingly fun ups and downs. 

It wasn’t until I was around four miles in that I realised I had absolutely no idea where I was. Without realising it I had gone so far off the beaten track I was now in no mans land, there was nothing to see but field after field. And I panicked a little. 


On reflection I accept that I do not live in the green belt and that realistically there’s a dual carriageway and housing estate around pretty much every corner. The fact that I’d only run four miles should have told me that I wasn’t in some immense wilderness but rather about two hundred metres from the nearest industrial estate but I had lost my mind and with it my sense of direction. I started desperately scanning the area for signs of life other than magpies and then decided the best course of action would be to run straight ahead. That way I would eventually meet civilisation, a motorway or an ocean, or die of exhaustion. I met none of those things, what I did meet was a pub called The Cabbage which despite not knowing exactly where I was I knew I was rather disappointingly not far from home. I had essentially run a very tight and complicated zig zag parallel to the first mile of the towpath. 
Now at this juncture any sensible human would breathe a sigh of relief, hit the towpath and head for home. 

Not I.

I decided it would be a good idea to hit the trails again.

I am a knobhead.


It was here that my lack of experience in trail running became glaringly apparent. Being the urban dunce that I am I hadn’t taken on board what happens when you mix a lot of ice with a strong sun. The glittery, frosted fairytale becomes a wet, boggy nightmare. For the next two miles I picked my way through what was essentially a huge swamp, I clung desperately to trees shrieking as I skimmed massive puddles of mud. Finally I found a pathway of blessed concrete, I wanted to thrown myself to the ground and kiss this man made beauty. 

The final mile was a mixture of track, road and the bastard of all hills thrown in for a good measure with legs that had become tired and heavy but I found my down hill at the last minute and stretched my legs for a speedy finish. 


I don’t know when I will next be able to run. I do know that it will be hard and painful and it will take time to find my feet again. What I also know is that the steps I took today will take me through this time and I will think of them with joy and longing. And when the time is right I will stretch my legs again, breathe lungs full of fresh air and see the world in all it’s incredible wonder. 

So today, tomorrow and afterwards more than ever I urge you with all of my heart…

Carpe Diem xxx

Thrush

Thrush

‘You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself’
Glinda from The Wizard of Oz

I have so many failed attempts at writing over the past two months, for all the myriad of emotions I’ve gone through I just couldn’t find the words. Many of you will no doubt have considered that a serendipitous blessing from the gods. 

But I am back.

A lot of shit has gone down since I was grounded by injury in July, I considered putting all of it into one epically blockbusting post but then remembered that much of it was pretty boring and involved me crying a lot and being a whiny ass little bitch and nobody wants to hear about that bollocks. The long story short is that my back hurt then my leg hurt then I stopped running and got depressed. Then my back stopped hurting, my leg still hurts a bit and I did the Great North Run and broke my toe and went on holiday and none of it in that order.


Injury is dreadful, it’s truly soul sapping crapshit. I’ve been through some serious pain in my time but acute sciatica made chemo feel like a mild hangover. I’ve never known pain like it and what compounded the intensity of the agony was the relentlessness of it. From waking to drug induced sleep I was in varying degrees of excruciating torture that simply would not let up. It was the most concentrated and extensive pain I’ve ever known and I fear its return. Coupled with that I developed a drastic leg injury that reduced me to walking with a limp and I had no idea what it was. I wrote this a couple of weeks back after running a mile; what turned out to be the beginnings of my recovery…


‘I have a history of over egging comebacks. If in the past I’d been catastrophically unwell, the first day I no longer felt like I was on the verge of death I tended to announce myself as fully recovered and immediately set about attempting ludicrous amounts of physical activity. Inevitably I ended up sicker than I was in the first place but having learnt nothing. And so the cycle continued. 

Lately though I’ve been unceremoniously floored and it’s left me feeling shaken and without confidence. My until recently triumphantly tough body has now become increasingly frail with injury upon injury. What started as a simple hernia then became compounded with acute (and seemingly endless) sciatica but the worst of all has been the undiagnosed calf injury that has left me wincing and limping when I walk. I’ve seen doctors, a physio and asked pretty much every person who has crossed my path (even my running mates are glazing over when I start talking about my arse ) but no one has an answer. And an answer is what I need, it’s as simple as that. All I need to know is what the problem is, what do I need to do to fix it and how long will it take. That’s got to be simple enough right?

Bollocks.


My good mate Joni Thrush (freakishly tall, northern gobshite with an annoyingly well written and entertaining blog thereluctanttriathlete.com) is currently carrying a foot injury and with a roughly equal lack of tolerance and good spirit as me. It’s amazing though how despite both having totally different problems how similar our experience with medics and sports therapists have been. And it seems to be the case in general; no matter what the injury, how it was incurred, where on the body it resides or what difficulties it produces there is a one size fits all treatment. A treatment so magical, so surefire, so foolproof that every single professional we have both seen regarding our respective and diverse injuries has recommended just one word.
RICE.

Rest, ice, compression, elevation. There is no runner or indeed sportsperson who hasn’t utilised this infamous acronym in their time. And obviously it’s good advice, if you’re injured it’s standard course of action to take to minimise damage. It’s also the most fucking overused word in the sports world. Seriously, over the past few weeks I have pretty extensively researched the most commonly occurring sports injuries (I had some extra time on my hands and Cleo and Marc stopped speaking to me because I’m a crabby bitch when I don’t run) and the treatment for every last one from calf strain and Achilles tendinitis to plantar fasciitis and ITB problems is RICE. Now that has to be bullshit. How can this possibly be the panacea to all sports injuries? The short answer is that it can’t, injury is so complex to the individual and their training schedule, physiology and background that there simply is no singular way of dealing and healing. The problem is twofold in that many therapists have serious problems in correctly diagnosing injury and most runners have serious issues in being told to rest. That said, Joni and I have decided to go into business together as parasportstherapists-it’s a mouthful but a catchy one. Whoever comes to us with whatever injury we’re going to give them some spurious stretches we’ve downloaded from the Internet, a weird faddy elastic band and strict instructions to RICE. That’ll be £40 thanks, see you next week for some more of the same. 

RICE my arse.’


Joni is still injured and we provide each other with daily reports of how shit it is and how useless all sports therapists are despite the fact we refuse to follow their advice. Well, it’s all bollocks anyway. Most of it. Ok the bit about resting was right because what happened to me was a revolution by my body, a mutiny, a vote of no confidence and all because I had over trained. There, it’s in print so I can’t deny it. I ran too fast, too far, too soon and my body told me to fuck right off. 


But I’m back in the running, yesterday I ran eight miles pretty much pain free and although my stamina and fitness are that of an asthmatic geriatric (in truth I know several asthmatic geriatrics who could properly kick my arse at any given distance on my very best day) it felt somewhat incredible to be out there. It still feels weird, nervously unfamiliar and my confidence has been dented but I feel like I’ve started a journey back to somewhere. I think I’ve found the road back home. 

I’m off to buy some ruby running shoes.