What an eight-year-old taught me about training for the London Marathon
It was the South West Athletics Academy open day, I was not sure what to expect. My main intent on attending was to try running on the 400m track – it was much bigger than I expected.
Before I was let loose on the terracotta red track, along with a few other people who were eager to try out the events, we were shown some warm-up drills. With my disability – mostly to do with balance and coordination – I found some of the skipping and straight leg raises testing, but put in my best effort. Under the supervision of two of the event organisers we were asked if we'd like to try 100m sprints. I am never one to say no to a challenge. Talk about being deluded, I was sprinting against an eight-year-old boy. I went full throttle and my feet couldn't keep up as I tried to break the Sound Barrier by leaning forwards to use gravity to my advantage. Long-story-short, I got to meet the track a little closer than I had in mind, by falling to the ground. I did the perfect Mo Farah - even the pros fall down - and picked myself up and got on with it, I did feel a little twinge in my left leg, but it was fine. I went on to do five laps of the track later in the day.
Four days after the Athletics open day I went to Monday training and did a few sprints and a warm-up lap before a higher paced lap, when I went into the second faster paced lap my leg gave out and I was unable to continue. That evening I limped home in pain, almost getting knocked over by an old lady with two walking sticks as I got off the bus – your bog standard Monday night as an athlete.
Not really aware of what I had done to my leg, I went to the hospital hoping they could enlighten me. I thought it was just a sporting injury requiring rest and frozen peas, but after a week it had not improved and I could hardly walk any distance without my leg collapsing. I suspected I had niggled an old surgical intervention I had 25-years ago, but doubted it as the bone I had fused together should have bonded by now, although when these things happen you anticipate the worst. The A&E nurse was unable to suggest what I had done to my leg, but sent me packing with a leaflet of acute knee injury exercises, despite telling me my knee and surrounding ligaments were very strong. The parting suggestion was, I go to see my GP to get referred to a physio.
Waiting to see my GP, and then limping into her office, met with a bemused welcoming look, seeing how I was walking, "sporting injury," I declared. After having my leg my leg prodded and pulled the conclusion was that I had probably just pulled a muscle, and should rest it, with a bag of frozen peas.
My favourite occupation has never been to rest, so I insisted on going to the gym and rowing, rather than run, this niggled my bruised rib though, so I soon took the advice of my body to sit at home and watch the Paralympics with my leg up – whilst watching other people engage in physical activity.
The lesson I've learned here is I am 36, not eight. I shouldn't have thought I could out-run an able-bodied child. If only I had run to the best of my abilities without leaning forward in hope of finding the 'edge', I may have avoided an injury.
Take everything in YOUR stride, and don't try to be something you are not.
Everything has a silver lining though and my body has enjoyed the rest and not getting up at 06:30 every morning to go to the gym. We can all come back stronger and fitter after adversity if we choose to.
Time to get back on track. The London Marathon awaits.