Wednesday 9 August 2017

Running to stand still

I never run. I've always thought of running as some kind of bizarre self-torture. I think it's because I hated every flavour of P.E. at school. I've always been quite clumsy as far as sports go, and my ineptitude at catching and hitting balls always got me picked last (genuinely) for P.E. teams. That sort of thing can put you off sports for life.

The idea of going to a gym makes me feel sick. I tried a Pilates class a few years ago and it had the same P.E. effect on me; I felt that I didn't fit in and that I shouldn't be there. Plus the Pilates room was really cramped and when I was lying on my back and stretching my arm up for some particular exercise, I kept making hand-to-foot contact with the long toenails of the man in the the row behind me. Also, the instructor made us do Pilates to the music of Simply Red. As soon as I heard Hucknall's first "Love the thought" that marks the start of FairgroundI knew I would never be attending that Pilates class ever again.

I've not owned a pair of sportsy trainers since I was a teenager. I walk everywhere as I don't drive, and my Converse were starting to give me ankle issues; I think they're just too flat and un-bouncy for walking long distances, so I bought myself some Skechers walking trainers. I wore them on a walk for the first time a few weeks back. It was a sunny day and there were wildflowers everywhere and poppies in the fields. (The photo at the top of this post is of one of those fields.) I also had my earphones in and when OK Go's The One Moment came on I broke into an uncontrollable, spontaneous run. I still don't know why. But I ran for a short while in the sunshine and I bloody loved it. I walked the rest of the way home and for the next couple of days I couldn't shift the thought of that feeling of pure loveliness which that little run had given me.

I Googled "how to start running" and found the NHS Couch to 5K website. I'd heard of C25K before but my anti-sports filter had always done a great job of blocking it out, pretty much in the same way I'd always scrolled on by people's social media posts about running. I got reading, searched a few hashtags on Instagram and Twitter and immediately ordered a pair of running leggings and a running belt (to hold my phone and keys) from Amazon. I already had a couple of sports bra top things that I'd bought for the godawful Pilates class. I decided I would start the plan the following Monday and set about making a running playlist on Spotify.

After my first run. Much water required!

The first run was a five minute brisk warm-up walk, followed by one minute of running and then ninety seconds of walking for a total of eight running segments, then a five minute warm-down walk and then some warm-down exercises.  I honestly didn't think I'd be able to complete the whole run and I had visions of collapsing and Chris having to come and fish me out of a hedge somewhere. But I did it! I was very red and very sweaty by the end but I absolutely loved it. With the C25K plan you have one or two rest days between runs and I was actually really excited about my second attempt.

After my second run. Quite hot!
Post-run. No make-up, no filter, no shits given.

What I've found I love most about running is the way it switches my brain off. I have never done any other activity that silences all my other thoughts. When I run, it's just my music, the C25K app telling me when to run and when to walk, the environment around me and the running. It makes me smile really huge grins. It makes me do arm-dancing to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. It makes me forget everything else but the running moment I'm in. How la-la does that sound? Very. But it's true.

It was all going really well. I visited Dad last week and I did my fifth run in Abingdon, through a woodland path, over the lock and along by the river. I felt a couple of knee twinges but got back to Dad's, did my warm-down, necked a couple of Ibuprofen and then went off and did some blacksmithing, which I'll write about another time. I came home last Thursday and all was fine knee-wise. On Friday morning I set off for my third week two run which was running for ninety seconds and walking for two minutes, for six run segments. Two thirds of the way through my run I felt a twinge, not actual stabby pain, about two inches under the knee on the insides of both legs, but I carried on.

Well, that was a terrible error.

My five minute walk home afterwards took me three times that long and there were many tears and swears as I hobbled home, the pain worsening all the while. I did my warm-down exercises (which I probably shouldn't have done) and then put some ice packs on my legs. There was no swelling and only a tiny bit of pain when I touched the affected leg bits. I assumed it was some form of ligament sprain or something so I did the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and no HARM (no heat, alcohol, running or massage) shenanigans all weekend. However, there wasn't a lot of improvement. Basically, when I put weight on them, the tops of my tibiae feel like they're being stabbed with red hot daggers and it makes me feel like my legs are about to go full Shakin' Stevens. The sofa and I have become one. I can't walk around the house without holding onto things for support and I'm having to go up our spiral staircase like a sad old cat, which Nigel thinks is some kind of hilarious funtime game.

I spoke to the doctor on Monday and he reckons it's pes anserine bursitis in both legs. One or more of the bursae (little liquid-filled cushions) in and around my knees have possibly burst or become irritated, which is causing inflammation and pain. This is most probably because my quads are weak. I've gone from zero running to doing some actual running but my legs are not used to this. I'm going to get back to the plan when my knee bursa sac things are all better. (Bursa Sac sounds like a bounty hunter from a planet in the Ryloth system.) The doctor was fully aware of C25K and he gave me some really good advice. He says that I mustn't let this put me off and that it's quite common in new runners, especially not-really-very-fit-and-active-40-ish women. His advice was to get my legs totally better and pain free, then do leg strengthening exercises—quaddy ones like squats and lunges—then make sure I have the correct footwear, and then restart the plan, doing each of the first few weeks twice, to really get my legs and body used to this running thing. In the meantime, it's rest and staying off my legs as much as I possibly can for about a fortnight, accompanied by icing my legs and taking ibuprofen. I'll probably go for a gait analysis so I can make sure I buy the correct running shoes and then I'm going to take the running so slowly the slugs will be overtaking me.

I am absolutely determined to do the Couch to 5K plan. I never thought that I would ever run or enjoy doing so. Right now I am frustrated and angry with myself for not having the correct shoes—I was going to get those sorted this weekend just gone but then the knee thing happened—and for not stopping when my knees were having twinges on that run. But you live and learn and I am very much looking forward to getting back out there, running while grinning and arm-dancing without a care in the world.


  1. You know you can do it, if you follow GP advice. C25K is good. I have heard elsewhere. I would do it myself if I could run. xx

    1. Oh, I'll do it. You know how stubborn I am. 😀 X

  2. This is brilliant! (The running not the injury, obvs)

    You really can't convince anyone of the joys of running: they have to discover it for themselves. I'm glad you have!

    F x

    1. Thanks, FP! I'm really looking forward to getting back out there. I've been reading lots of inspiring stories and helpful posts on the C25K forum. X

  3. I used to run a bit, never enjoyed it. Then, when my hip pain got too intense that was that. I was a walker - up to 9 miles a day at my fittest. Since I retired 3.5 years ago, I don't walk much anymore, I miss it.
    Good luck with your recovery and running plan. I know people who run without pain but that's never been me. Proud of you, you'll get there!


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