My Marathon disaster

A week ago today, I ran the London Marathon for the second time. My first race, in 2013, was ever so slightly ruined by being tripped up after the half-way point. I managed to finish (in 4 hours 51 mins) with a right knee swollen to the size of a large grapefruit. As a result, I ended up getting knee surgery to repair the damage, which was a whole heap of fun.

This time round, I was once again running for Epilepsy Action, but better prepared and in a really positive frame of mind. I secured my place in the race a months later than most – thanks to Epilepsy Action – so training was slightly curtailed. The sheer volume of business travel I had during the last six months was also a real challenge to maintaining a training schedule.

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Pre-race confidence and smiles

As a result, I ran across the Dutch countryside on Christmas Day (!!), jogged through Singapore in deathly humidity and ran in Malaysia in a non-air conditioned hotel gym. My final long, slow run took place across the Spanish countryside. All to get in shape for the big race.

I started this year’s marathon in great shape. My right knee (the one I had surgery on) had behaved itself all through training and my mental prep had me visualising the run, my pacing and large swathes of the course. I was on home turf, after all.

I was aiming for an injury-free completion, but deep down I wanted to beat my previous time by quite a bit. I would have been delighted with 4 hours 30mins or quicker, given my training, my previous injury and (let’s face it) my general level of fitness.

I really enjoyed the first few miles and the crowds lining the route were a big help. The mood among the runners was positive and light-hearted. By the time I crossed Tower Bridge, waving t the Epilepsy Action support team lining the pavement, I felt like I could take on the world. A few miles later and I was at 17 miles, waving to @FrankDJS and another friend who came to support me. As you can see form the below, I was in good form!

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Still smiling at 17 miles…

Sadly, it wasn’t to last. By the time I got to Limehouse, I was crippled with pain. Not the suspect knee, actually, but my left hip. I think – with hindsight – that I had been subconsciously favouring my left side throughout the race, putting to much strain on my left hip. Searing burning pain and a grinding feeling almost stopped me in my tracks a few times. Whenever this kicked in, I slowed down, moved to the side of the road and stretched.

This gave a little respite the first couple of times, but after that, absolutely nothing. The pain was as if someone was sticking a hot poker into the very centre of my hip joint. I was loose, confident and pain free throughout the rest of my body, but it felt like someone was putting my left hip through a vice.

After slowing down to a walk for about the fourth time, I stopped by the side of the road in Limehouse before we rejoined the route on the Highway. I briefly – very briefly – considered stopping completely. It was a chilly day and my body temperature was rapidly coming down. I began to shiver and stiffen up all over.

So I kept moving.

A shuffling kind of walking run. Anything to keep moving. By the time I got to Lower Thames Street, I was in agony. Absolutely agony, all centred in that damned hip. Somewhere I’d never had even mild discomfort before. I could have almost forgiven my right knee if it had given way, but it was fine.

And so, I slowed to a walk. For the final 12 kms of the race. It was hell. And every few minutes, I’d look at my watch to see the time ticking by and Westminster apparently getting no closer at all.

I was really cold at this point, but pushed on just to finish the damned thing. I had also spent the previous four months pretty much begging people for money for Epilepsy Action, so there was no way I couldn’t finish. No way.

The walk along Embankment and past Westminster was deeply, deeply unpleasant. Something I’d never want to repeat. I can say without reservation it was the most painful running experience of my life. Putting any weight on my left side was now agony, even when walking. So my final shuffle up to the finishing line (I wasn’t going to walk over the line!) was sheer, brutal agony. And there it was. A painful and humiliating end to the run, in a dismal 5 hours, 41mins.

A painful walk past packs of smiling and joyful runners later and I was at the Epilepsy Action camp, lining up for a sports massage. That in itself was incredibly tough on my body, but I assumed it was the best thing to do. I got congratulations from everyone around me, but I felt like a fraud. I had walked a vast chunk of the run and missed every single one of my targets, including crossing the line without injury.

Yes, I passed people along the way who were completely out of the race. Yes, I managed to finish it in the end. But I didn’t take a single piece of pride in finishing it. Instead, I couldn’t get home fast enough. I just wanted to put it behind me and get in a hot shower.

I’m not over running, but I’m over marathons. I’ve done what I set out to do, but from here on in, it’s half-marathons for me. When I remember all the enjoyable training runs I had over the last few months, I know I can run well and run for fun. I think the marathon is a step too far.

I’ve rested for most of the week, but I’m still hobbling a little. Stairs are still my enemy. So time to get back in the sauna and jacuzzi this evening. And time to start planning some post-summer half-marathons.

The single positive point from all of this is the fundraising. Thanks to the generosity of family, friends and colleagues, I raised over £1,300 for Epilepsy Action. The fundraising page is still open, so if you’d like to add to the fund, you can by clicking here.

 

 

Setting the target

As per my last post, I’m working towards a big goal: completing the 2015 London Marathon on April 26th. Not to be taken lightly.

After my last marathon experience, I’m looking simply to finish injury-free and faster than my first time of 4:51. Not too much of a stretch, hopefully. I’d love to get in for about 4:30 or faster. But we’ll see how training pans out.

I kicked off training yesterday with a nice 5km run around Canary Wharf in the Winter sunshine. “Nice” because I felt very flexible and confident – no stiffness in “the knee” – and because I made it around in a comfortable 26mins. I could have kept going, but had things to do and also didn’t want to overdo it after a few weeks of no running.

So I have a training plan in my calendar, all working towards the big day in April, as well as a sponsorship page up at JustGiving, so I can raise money for Epilepsy Action. I’m easing up from 5km this week and bravely anticipating some running over the Christmas holidays.

I’ll keep you all appraised of progress here on MacPsych.me, hopefully avoiding boring you in the process.

If you can spare a pound, click here and help me help Epilepsy Action.

Exciting and petrifying

Wow. I had all but given up on the idea of running a marathon in 2015, when I got the call. One of the very nice people over at Epilepsy Action got in touch this afternoon to ask me if I wanted to have one of their charity places for next year’s London Marathon.

I said yes in a heartbeat (two quick heartbeats, really) then scanned my diary for any potential conflicts. Thankfully, I was free, so now I’m looking towards April 2015 with a mixture of trepidation and glee.

Trepidation in that I have less time than I’d like to get marathon ready – yet it’s still do-able. I ran the Royal Parks Half-Marathon in October, injury free and enjoyed every step. Could have kept running, in fact.

But still. Can you ever have too much time to prep for a marathon?

So yes, some trepidation.

But also, glee. I’m excited to have the opportunity to kick the ass out of my one and only marathon time. I ran the 2013 London Marathon in 4:51, due to being tripped up half-way through. And of course, the ensuing knee surgery was an absolute laugh-a-minute, not to mention the physio.

Not one of my best races. Considering I’ve run a half-marathon in 1:42. So pretty much anything I do – while avoiding clumsy runners – will ensure I cross the line quicker than in 2013.

(I sincerely hope I haven’t just set myself up for massive disappointment.)

And the quid pro quo here is my need to raise some valuable funds for the excellent work Epilepsy Action do. I live with epilepsy and so I know first-hand the support they can provide to people living with this most common of neurological disorders.

I’m very lucky in that I can live a full and enjoyable life, despite the occasional seizure. Many people with epilepsy can’t.

I’ll be setting up a fundraising drive for this run in the coming days and would welcome anything – anything – you can give in support. Every pound or dollar will be welcome and put to good use.

Meanwhile, I’ll get training like a madman (in a healthy, sustainable style obviously) and keep you up to date on my progress here.

Royal Parks shenanigans

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Right. No more messing about.

I’m running this October’s Royal Park’s half-marathon in aid of Epilepsy Action. Regular readers of my blog will know I’ve lived with this condition for years and have found the support from Epilepsy Action invaluable.

I ran the 2013 London Marathon for them, but in the process sustained a nasty knee injury. That, and the result surgery and rehab, have kept me out of running for a long, long time.

But now I’m back. So I’m committing to running the Royal Parks halfie and, once again, looking to raise a few shekels for Epilepsy Action in the process. I’ve set up a Just Giving page, through which you can sponsor my efforts. Even if you can’t – and I really appreciate that we all get lots of pleas for sponsorship and charity donations these days – please consider simply sharing this link on your various social media outlets.

Now all that’s left to do is get back into running longer distances, starting this week. While simultaneously avoiding another injury to my knee.

(“All“, he said!)

Now that I can finally walk, run and cycle pain free.

Under the knife…

So…I went to see my orthopaedic specialist the other evening. And the news wasn’t great.

He’s diagnosed a meniscus tear, requiring surgery.

Because my injury happened in April (thank you fellow runner at the London Marathon), because I’ve rested and stretched and avoided long runs and because the pain is getting worse: he recommends surgery to repair something that obviously isn’t healing itself.

It’s not an emergency, but is only going to get worse with time. And it’s become worse in the last few weeks. Even swimming in the sea in Mallorca was causing me pain last week. Long walks in London now result in knee pain and a real (and worrying) feeling of weakness in the knee.

Weakness like I’m going to fall over.

Not good.

Surgery is quick – in and out on the same day – but will result in me being “out of action” for up to six weeks. As in, relying on crutches and requiring physiotherapy. This completely and utterly rules out competing in either of the half-marathons I’ve registered for in the coming months: Run to the Beat and the Royal Parks half-marathon.

Arse.

On top of that, my work and personal schedules for the next two months are crazy. I have trips to: Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, Cheltenham (twice), Madrid (twice) and Tokyo. There’s no way I can have the surgery any time soon without massive disruption to all my travel plans.

So I’m planning to delay the surgery slightly until November, once we’re back from Japan. That way, I’ll get to experience Tokyo without crutches or a flight-related blood clot. Yes, the epic flight to Tokyo is better experienced when one hasn’t had invasive surgery on a limb required to move about gracefully.

Between that and the crowds in Tokyo – I don’t really fancy tripping up on the street and screwing up an already delicate knee.

So it’s surgery in November, focused physio and rehab into the New Year. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to get back into training post-Xmas and then race again in the Spring.

All in all, not great news. But it really could be a lot worse. And let’s face it, I’m not a professional athlete – the very thought! – this won’t derail my career. Just annoy me until I’m able to run again.

The knee saga continues

So…I had my appointment with the orthopaedic specialist and those of you who had placed bets on me needing an MRI can cash in now. He thinks I’ve damaged cartilage in there but wants to get a good look inside.

Good news: I may be able to get the scan done in the next few days.

Bad news: I’m in Spain for most of next week so an appointment may be more difficult

Good news: he never mentioned the words “operation” or “surgery”

Bad news: it hasn’t been ruled out, either

Good news: the specialist was an incredibly nice guy

For more of this in-depth and scintillating reporting on the state of my lower joints, watch out for more posts after the MRI.

“The knee, it aches!”

EDI HalfSo with just a few weeks to go until this year’s Royal Parks half-marathon, I’m waiting on an appointment to see a specialist about my knee.

Those of you with long memories will remember that I was tripped up during this year’s London Marathon (thanks again, inconsiderate tool!) and wrenched my knee while trying to avoid crashing to the ground.

Months later, and I still can’t run more than about 2 or 3 km without the pain kicking in. I had self-diagnosed (thanks, internet) with ITBS based on the symptoms. I figured I needed some physio and specialist advice before heading out and running serious distances again.

One trip to the doctor later and I find I can’t see a physio until I’ve seen an orthopaedic specialist to ensure that…ominous pause…surgery isn’t required.

Arse.

So, no running for the next few weeks and probably (all going to plan) less than a month to get myself in a fit state to run the half-marathon.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Let’s hope it’s just some physio and a gentle return to the streets of London.

Am I mad?

310978_10151643583879187_968400615_nI may well be…

I’ve just entered the ballot for places in the 2014 London Marathon! I know I had a really tough time of it at this year’s event, but I’m confident I could shave at least 30mins off my time next year.

(If I can avoid getting tripped up and injured again!)

I won’t know until October, but by then I’ll have run at least two more half-marathons and will be ready to up the training to the required level again.

I’m even considering the Amsterdam half-marathon this year, in addition to the Royal Parks London half in October and the Run to the Beat event in September.

Have I been bitten by the marathon bug?

Perhaps.

Marathon Man!

I survived the London Marathon – but only just!

I know it’s been almost a week since I ran it, but the fact that I had to get up at 4am the following morning to fly to Jersey on business and the unrelenting workload since then have combined to make blogging about it all…a bit of a challenge.

In summary, it was the best event I’ve ever participated in and I don’t regret a minute of it. Yes, there were times I wondered to myself why the hell I’d signed up in the first place, but the feeling of running across the finishing line and receiving my medal made it all worthwhile.

Starting at the top…

The weather was amazing. If I’m honest, it was a little too sunny and warm for my liking, even though I’ve done a lot of training in Spain in much higher temps. This was going to be a hell of a long run – my longest ever – so I was hoping for cool, dry and still weather conditions. But the sun contributed to a great party atmosphere.

I’m glad I plastered a layer of factor 15 moisturiser on my very bald head that morning. By the close of business that evening, I was developing quite a nice tan there. My shoulders, which missed out on the sunscreen, weren’t as cheery and turned a lovely shade of cherry tomato.

This was my first marathon and I was very, very nervous on the day. But the supportive atmosphere from the other runners soon put these to rest and by the time I crossed the starting line, I was ready to take on the world. The first half was an absolute dream. I had opted, based on all the advice I’d received from friends and experts, to leave my headphones at home and just rely on the atmosphere and cheering crowds to keep me motivated.

I’m so glad I did. The support from the crowds lining the route was indescribable. I’ve never seen London from this angle before – communities  using the event as an excuse for a good street party, while cheering on random strangers. I was amazed at the impact this had on me. High-fiving people on the side of the road, exchanging jokes and just smiling as people hollered my “running name”, plastered on the back of my op…”Dr. Dick”.

The first half of the race was pure bliss. I felt on top form, was nice and hydrated and was genuinely enjoying every step of the way.

Then, disaster struck.

Running along Narrow Street, I was tripped up by another runner. I have to say, the most common phrase I’d heard fro other runners up until that point was “excuse me”, as they weaved their way through the packs in front of them. This guy, however, decided to use a more muscular approach and left me and a couple of other runners stumbling as he pushed through us. I did everything I could to avoid hitting the ground, but this stumbling and eventual banging of my foot off the kerb somehow wrenched my right knee.

I felt something grind against something else, which is never a good sign.

But no pain.

So on I ran. But by the end of the street, I was in agony. I needed to stop by a medical station and have it seen to. It was stiffening up by the second and I could barely bend it. The medic I saw was fantastic – thank you support staff! – and produced a magic bottle of something, sprayed it onto my leg and started to massage. I imagined it was some kind of topical painkiller, but unfortunately I saw the label.

It was just baby oil.

All chance of a placebo effect went out the window and once the massage was over, I hobbled on. I had the guts of a half-marathon still to run and my right knee was no longer working.

The sensible thing to have done would be to drop out and just chalk it up to experience. But that’s not me. All I could think about was the money I was trying to raise and all the time I’d spent training. I couldn’t just stop, so on I went.

Imagine running where one knee just won’t bend properly. That was me. I ended up in a kind of shuffle, interchanging that with speed walking.

I had been on pace for a 4:15 finish, keeping an eye on both my watch and the pace-setting runners with flags on their backs. But now, all that went up in smoke and I just focused on finishing the damned thing. I had some pretty dark thoughts as I hobbled along, but even cynical me has to admit that the crowd kept me going. By the time I reached Tower Hill and headed down to Upper Thames Street, I was once again enjoying myself.

Yes, the knee was still agony, but to be fair I saw lots of other runners in similar amounts of pain, so we kept each other going. Every time I slowed to a walk, someone in the crowd made eye contact and cheered me on. I felt so guilty, I’d start jogging again.

Once on Embankment, I hit my stride again – this was home turf. Most of my training runs have taken me along Embankment and around Westminster, so I knew every step of the way. By this point, I could taste the finish line and was doing everything I could to keep going. This involved any and all of the following: visualising the post-race massage, thinking of what I’d have for dinner, singing the George Gershwin back catalogue (in my head, obviously) and thinking what I’d do to the guy who tripped me if I ever met him again.

Turning past Buckingham Palace, I expected to be able to get my sprint on for the final stretch, as I have at every other race. But no. My body just didn’t have anything left. I had done all I could and I jogged the final few hundred metres and eased myself into a walk over the finishing line.

One part of my brain was bemoaning my shitty performance: 4:51 when I’d been aiming for at least 4:30. The other half  was screaming “YOU’VE JUST RUN A MARATHON YOU CRAZY LITTLE HOBBIT”.

Getting my medal and wandering up to the meeting point, I did a complete volte face. On the Highway, I swore to myself I’d never run another marathon. Ever. It was complete madness, a danger to my health and something I’m just too old for. By the time I was on Horse Guards, I was thinking about my next race.

And now for some thank you’s…

Thanks to everyone who sponsored me to run this marathon. I’ve raised almost £2000 for Epilepsy Action and the JustGiving page is still open if you’re minded to help me reach my target.

Thanks to my partner, @FrankDJS, who encouraged and supported me through all my training, helped promote my fundraising and watched my progress on the day. Sorry for scaring you when I looked in just rag order!

Thanks for my friends and colleagues for coming into London and supporting me. You’ve no idea what it’s like to see a friendly face in the crowd as you trudge along.

Thanks to the team from Epilepsy Action for your support and for the most welcome post-race massage!

Thanks to all the volunteers who made the day run so smoothly.

And thank you to all the Londoners who turned the race route into one long party.

As for my next marathon, who knows? But I’ve already got two half-marathons in my calendar for later in the year. All I know is, I’ve done one. I can always do another!

And yes – I do look properly knackered in this picture. Not my finest hour, but at least I’m still standing after 4 hours and 51 minutes of crazy activity in the sun!

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