It seems very fitting that after almost two months of silence on Nat On A Map that I release my blog today. What day? Sunday, no. The day of rest, no. This is the day that would have been the biggest day of my life to date; The London Marathon. By now I should be somewhere near 1/3 of the way through the Marathon questioning why the hell I decided this was a good idea. Instead I am sat in my hammock in the garden basking in this beautiful April sunshine, the Marathon seeming like an odd and distant dream.
So, why did I take a Social Media hiatus? You may (or may not) be wondering. If you do wonder, please read on. I am giving you warning now the below has moments of me fully bearing my soul. Not for sympathy, not for likes. But because I made myself (and my blog readers) a promise; I will share the good, the bad, the ugly and the truth, of being a first time Marathon Runner.
So what happened? In life we often hear the saying Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I have never really thought any more of it. But in this case hindsight has been my saving grace on bringing me back on course. So if you are still with me, here is what happened;
I started officially training for the London Marathon in November. I was following a custom-built training plan, attending physio, regular sports massages and so forth. All was going well. By Feb 2020 I could run 8.6 miles (NOT BAD) considering in February 2019 I could only run 1.3 miles, and that wiped me out for the rest of the day. With every mile I was able to add to my runs I felt more and more alive. That I was chipping away at a mountain of miles (26.2 of them to be precise.) I CAN DO THIS, I WILL DO THIS. In short I was feeling pretty bloody great.
That feeling faded pretty fast after that 8.6 mile run. I woke up, and went to spring out of bed, and that was not happening! I physically groaned with pain trying to get up, trying to sit, trying to move. It felt like my hip was going to pop out of my side…not ideal in any situation. I gave myself some time off (a week) thinking it would get better and it did, until I ran again…I made it ¾ of a mile before I had to limp home. After multiple visits to the doctors and physio I was referred a wonderful Muscular and Skeletal specialist who works with professional Ballet Dancers (and me…) oh and professional Marathon Runners too! I was in good hands. I completed the physical assessment and was sent for an MRI. Horrendous Hospital gown selfie below. I felt we were going to make progress from here. Well sometimes life it just a bit shit and you don’t get the answers you want.
Before I get to the results (building for dramatic effect) … but don’t worry I am fine, I can walk and have both my legs still. Let me set you the scene of where I was at mentally. Because the deeper I go into my Marathon journey the more important mindset has become;
I personally was having what I would call growing pains from December-March. I don’t mean I literally mean grew 5 inches. What I mean is I seemed to be going through some sort of emotional puberty. Lots of [for the most part] constructive criticism about my work, my aura, my behaviour and my personality. I won’t lie to you it is incredibly hard (and quite frankly shit) to hear where people believe you need to improve when you think you are ok in those areas. On top of this I was having some personal struggles too with family and friends and on top of this a large amount of stress and pressure from work situations. But for over 5 months I have set alarms for 5:30 AM, I have been to the gym, wrapped up in thermals to hit the pavements, listened to mindset podcasts, read books on running techniques, blocking out half my weekend to dedicate to running and all that surrounds it. At first it seemed a chore but by January it was a pleasure. I looked forward to my run each morning, because I can safely say it is the only time in my life where [ironically] I am not running at a hundred miles per hour. I am just focused on the road ahead. I got to put all my worries and struggles outside of running in a little box for a while. It gave me clarity and motivation, even more so knowing I was doing all this to raise money for my three amazing charities. My letter came from the specialist and it read; it is under medical advisement you should not participate in the Marathon in 2020. That broke me, well and truly broke me.
Being open and with the context above I now realise, that from early December through to March I was in an incredibly dark place in my life. And I had been clinging on to training as a point of focus, that I could control, and now this too was gone. That’s it. I snapped. Packed up my things and left work mid-afternoon (something for those who know me, is not in my character to do.) I left and drove to a park I pass every day on the way home from work which I have never stopped at but always thought I should. I stopped and walked around in circles for 2 hours and I cried and cried and cried, until there was nothing left. I then got in the car and drove home and began to process everything. To be clear I know (particularly now) there are by far worse things going on, but its all relevant right?
I want to take you through the thoughts that have run through my head since I got my Doctors letter. The below are short, to the point and in their rawest form. I thought;
- How do I tell my charities I cant raise the money I promised from the London Marathon
- I will always be fat
- Its because I am fat that I got injured
- People [not all] have already made sarcastic comments, what will they say now? To my face never mind behind my back, or in their head you were never going to do it
- My body let me down
- What about the money people have already donated?
- I cant start again
- I will always be a failure when it comes to improving my body
- I will always look this way
- I will always feel out of place
- I don’t want to smile and say it’s all good when people ask how my training is going
- I am sick of people’s opinion on my goals and choices.
I AM DONE.
The combination of work, home, self-improvement and training all turning to s*** was just too much. People don’t tell you that Running, whatever your reason is becomes all consuming. I applied so much pressure to myself, and I lost it. And do you know what? That’s ok.
For those interested in the technical aspect of my injury this is what it is: I have suspected bone stress reaction. For those like me that were like what is this? According to Google (and my Doctor!) Stress injuries represent a spectrum of injuries ranging from periostitis, caused by inflammation of the periosteum, to a complete stress fracture that includes a full cortical break. They are relatively common overuse injuries in athletes (I will take Athlete as a complement!) that are caused by repetitive submaximal loading on a bone over time. Stress injuries are often seen in running and jumping athletes and are associated with increased volume or intensity of training workload. Most commonly, they are found in the lower extremities and are specific to the sport in which the athlete participates. To paraphrase Google and my Doctor. Keep doing what your doing and you could end up with a nice fracture somewhere round your hip area- FABULOUS. Oh! I almost forgot – and a nice touch of Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Which is: IT band syndrome causes pain on the outside of the knee and sometimes in the outer hip. The pain is a result of irritation and inflammation due to overuse or improper posture and movement during exercise. IT band syndrome is most common in runners, hikers, and cyclists. Resolution: cycling is suggested until we can rule out further BSR (Bone Stress Reaction) fully as a risk. – not ideal.
I chose to take a hiatus from blogging until I could get my head round where I was at, and to allow myself time to once again formulate the words to write where I am now.
Where am I now?
Having taken some time out, I would say I am back at the beginning, like someone hit refresh. But that isn’t a bad thing. Due to Covid-19 the London Marathon has been postponed to October 2020, and being frank based on the medical advice given and the fact I cannot even run a mile without hip pain making me want to throw up it still isn’t looking great. And then the golden ticket: London Marathon: your options. An unexpected email. If you cannot participate in October you can defer (well shit, I can’t do that, I did that last bloody last year and you can only defer once and then you loose your place.) BUT WAIT: it says even if you were deferred YOU CAN AGAIN. So here we go again. Bring it on April 2021.
I have been given an opportunity I never thought would be possible and through all the darkness and uncertainty in the world right now I am incredibly grateful and humbled by the opportunity life has presented me.
SO (almost there) to begin again; the long road to recovery. I am walking everyday and slowly adding a few minutes of running here and there. I am doing yoga, physio and have just borrowed a bike to start increasing my non-impact cardio. I am also seriously investing in my fuel (food) for probably, truthfully the first time in my life. I want to give my body, and my mind the best possible chance.
What have I learnt?
- Every book says injury is part of the training, I took that lightly, its not a theory it’s a fact. And they all can impact you psychologically – no matter how big or small
- What people think of me is not my business
- Running and everything around it has become more than a goal for me it has become a passion and I am thrilled to have found it
- I need to be grateful my body has bought me this far – thank you, I have never asked anything so demanding of you before
- External factors WILL influence your running mindset, its reality. Like a muscle you need to train your brain to tune it out when training
- I need to hope my charities and the people who have donated understand this is not the end, if anything this gives me more time to earn even more funds for my charities and raise awareness of the amazing work they do day in and day out
- I have learnt it is ok to not be ok
- Some people may want to hear only good things but sometimes you just need to be honest and say, I am not ok
I knew this journey would be hard, but I certainly underestimated it and the psychological impact it would have on me. I am incredibly grateful for my friends and family. And for my absolute rock and biggest supporter, Adam – god I love you more than life itself!
Forrest Gump infamously said:
Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.Forrest Gump
My first post on Instagram when I was preparing to launch my Marathon blog was the picture below and do you know what it said?
Never forgot how far you have come
Stay happy, stay healthy, and if you ever need to talk or (right now) need a virtual cup of tea I am here for you, runner or not, just ask. Your mind is your most powerful tool, treasure it.
Here’s to the next 12 months of my personal adventure and evolution.