Not running sucks. I’ve learned that lesson big style over the last month or so. In the four weeks and five days since I last pulled on a pair of trainers it has been difficult for so many reasons, and sometimes it is the visible and often daily reminders of that which make it all the more palpable.
Firstly I’ve spent so much time running over the last few years it has just become a way of life. It is part of me in fact. From the Great North Run to the New York Marathon to the local parkrun to just getting out on my local streets, it is all great. even in the rain. Up until a year or so ago, when I introduced myself to people for the first time, I used to say that I was a bit of a pretend runner, but that’s just not true any more. I run because I enjoy it, pure and simple. I’m a runner and I’m proud of it.
Secondly is the missing out part. For example I’m lucky to work for a great company which has a wonderful sense of fun, and also a very active group of runners. There isn’t a single day that I can recall, in all weathers, that someone isn’t going out for a run at lunchtime. We even have our own Strava group where much encouragement is given to people’s activities in and out of work. And worse for me it is all so visible – Russ who works for me sits within five feet of me, literally across the table, and Esther is about six feet further away in my direct line of sight. Esther runs every day, and is one of the many people who have helped me on the big and eventful journey to be the runner I am now. So for the past month or so, whilst I have been inactive, to watch them (and others) getting kitted up and all excited for their jaunt as I sit and feel sorry for myself has been hard.
Then there is the competitive element and the runs we had booked up. Melanie and I had set out to do the London Winter 10k, an event I’d done for the last three years and loved, then the Cambridge Half Marathon in March, and then the Edinburgh Marathon in May. I’ve cancelled all of my places and so that is hard too. It is so exciting to have events to look forward to, and when you have none, and no prospect of when the next one might be, then it is a bit demoralising. Melanie is still running of course, and so I keep on encouraging her and she’s been great at supporting me too.
And then also it is the not knowing. As things stand I have no end in sight as far as resolution to the cartilage injury is concerned, and thus when or even whether I can actually get back running again. To some extent it would be better if I knew that I had say six months off and then it would be all right again. But I of course know it won’t. Degenerative osteoarthritis and a torn cartilage that isn’t ever going to get better are what they are, and I have to just accept that and make the most of it.
Despite all of this, (and believe me I’m not complaining about my lot, far from it) I’m on a mission. The recuperation part I am taking as seriously as the running was in the first place. I have to, because I want to get back there in whatever capacity my body will let me. And not just that, we have a trip booked to Everest Base Camp at the end of next month. Nepal being my favourite country, and the trek to Base Camp the best music for the mind, body and soul imaginable, then I can’t miss out on that too. It’s unthinkable, so I have to be the best I can be.
I’ve thus taken on board (in fact I’ve hauled it up, wrapped it in my arms and am almost quite literally never letting go) of what my orthopaedic surgeon has said to me. Instead of surgery, due basically to my age and the advanced risk of introducing extra arthritis to my already permanently damaged joints, he told me to cycle for 30 minutes a day, every day. Having decided that that was hard (as I basically can’t stand being on stationary bikes or turbo trainers) I did two things:
Firstly I bought a bloody good stationary bike, a JTX Cyclo Studio, after much research. I did consider Wattbike and Peloton, but the prices they ask are pretty astronomical, and so I reckoned that getting a good solid bike was enough. Coupled to this though, I knew I needed some visual stimuli, and as Claudia Schaffer wasn’t available for hire (:)) I bought myself a new TV to sit on the wall in front of the bike. I also signed up to the Peloton app, which you can do without having to buy the Peloton bike, and although you don’t get all of the interactive features with the other members, you still get the classes, which is good enough for me.
Thus a regime has begun which I’ve stuck to every day, practically without fail since early January. I’ve also found a new love for Netflix, and watched all manner of things that I normally wouldn’t have the patience to watch, but know that an episode of The Stranger, lasting 45 minutes will get me more than my required daily dose of what amounts to my medicine. When the shows are entertaining and keep me engaged, like most of The Stranger did, it means I can watch a whole episode at a time and do more than the doctor ordered. Little steps and all that.
Better still, on a follow up visit to the surgeon since my cortisone injection in January, he also said I could ride outside. Bliss! Now the only issue with being outside and getting some miles in my legs and air in my lungs (instead of sweating profusely in my study on the aforementioned new indoor toy) is the weather. In the last three weeks in the UK we’ve basically had fire and brimstone, except without the fire. It has been desperate, and a succession of winter storms, Ciara, Dennis and now Jorge, although Ellen still threatens out in the Atlantic somewhere, have battered the UK. I’ve frankly always been a bit of a fair weather cyclist, but in these conditions it is not just unenjoyable but also borderline dangerous to be outside. Frost, ice and winds just aren’t my bag I’m afraid.
I have managed to get outside a few times though, and a couple of times when at Melanie’s while she is running I’ve gone out on her bike while she trains for the Cambridge Half. It’s ok, but lets call it less than ideal, especially as her bike is massively too small for me, but every little helps.
So the answer to the weather issue, is that if I couldn’t get the mountain to come to Mohammed, was to take Mohammed to the mountain! I am thus, as I write this, en route to Majorca, for a short cycling weekend. I get the benefit of some (hopefully, albeit brief) winter sunshine, some of the best cycling roads and routes that Europe has to offer, and an opportunity to properly stretch the legs out. I did when speaking to the surgeon check with him whether I could do this, and he basically said it was the best thing I could do. He told me that a friend of his, with him 200 miles to Devon last week, through the storms and all. So storms I neither need nor like, but sunshine and Majorca (medicinal purposes only you understand!) I do!
I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes……………