The price of running a marathon

My Mojo had well and truly upped and left after the London Marathon. I think part of it was the disappointment, and part the various illnesses catching up with me.

To overcome it, and to give myself something to focus on, I looked towards the Leicester Half as my next target, and hoped that going somewhere sunnier would help.

View of the Boardwalk, so much nicer when it’s not raining.

It did. In terms of my desire to run, once I arrived in Florida, I couldn’t wait to get out onto the Boardwalk. Which was a good job as the hotel fitness room had only one treadmill.

There’s something about running along coastal paths that I enjoy. I am guessing it’s the fresh air, and the breezes. Coming from a landlocked county, I love trips to the seaside. We had tried beach running last year on our visit to Daytona. The sand is very firm, and I found it a decent surface to run on. The OH disagreed. This year, we were sticking to more solid surfaces.

The morning we ran, it was throwing it down with rain. The temperatures were still very warm, so the rain gave us some relief. But it wasn’t the weather that delayed our start; it was my ankle. I had noticed it a few days before leaving the UK that I was having to wait for my ankle to un-sieze itself when I got up in the morning. It wasn’t the pain that was troubling me, but the tightness. I’ve always been quite flexible, and I’d never had too many problems with tight joints. I’d been spending time on stretching my calves and achilles tendon, but it hadn’t been loosening up.

It was something that plagued my holiday, not just my running. The OH was happy to drive, and we spent a fair amount of time travelling to various places. Getting out of the car, I would need a good 10-15 minutes to loosen up my ankle. So I stretched it more, and walked for miles, seeing as I wasn’t running as much as I’d hoped. I still managed to get some runs in, despite the pain. Our second hotel, in Key Largo, had an “adequate” fitness room, with two treadmills, although one did have a sloppy belt. It was a good job the fitness room was better, as there wasn’t very much in the way of safe looking running routes outdoors, with the hotel located on US-1. We didn’t see many runners out and about on our travels, confirming to us that we were better off indoors.

Our hotel in Marathon also had a fitness room with two fully functioning treadmills. Sadly, the air-con unit wasn’t very good. It was less of a problem when we were able to get in there first thing, but we weren’t the only other people to have this idea. Luckily, there was a decent 3-4 mile route around Key Colony that was quiet and safe for running along. Drivers, especially the school bus driver, were more accommodating to runners, and gave us precedence in crossing roads, so we didn’t have to slow down or stop, a rare occurrence back home in Leicester.

Our final hotel had the best fitness room, and I was also able to work on strengthening and conditioning, which during my marathon training had been allowed to lapse. Whilst there were a lot of people out and about running, the roads around the hotel were pretty busy throughout the day. We stayed indoors.

The ankle problem never really disappeared. So I stepped up the training when I got back, and continued to stretch the joint. A week ago, whilst running, I had a horrible stabbing pain in the back of my heel. It was at this point, I stopped running, and decided to investigate the problem.

Had I investigated the problem sooner, I would have realised I have achilles tendonitis. The pain and stiffness in the mornings was apparently a classic sign. More worrying was the discovery of a lump on the tendon, which could be a precursor to a full on rupture, or lead to degeneration if not allowed to heal properly. I have no idea how long it’s been there. But knowing that I have made the injury worse by ignoring it is frustrating, as I could now have permanent damage at worst, or have hindered my chances of a new half-marathon personal best at worst. I also need to learn to listen to my body, and not to ignore symptoms, instead of shrugging them off, and telling myself to “man up”, and “get on with it”.

Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation

I should have been resting, icing, compressing, and elevating (RICE). I now have some Voltarol (I cannot use ibuprofen, as I’m allergic to aspirin). My Polar Powder ice pack has been in regular use. I have been concentrating on upper body work; weights, and an “upper body ergometer”, which is a machine that looks like an arm cycle. I have also transferred my cardio workout to the swimming pool, using a pull buoy to prevent me from using my legs.

It appears to be working. On Friday, I woke up with no pain or stiffness. Today I tried a couple of lengths of crawl and breast stroke using gentle leg kicks. I think it’s too early for to use the legs, there was a bit of pain in and around the ankle. I haven’t swam seriously for years, so I have been working on my technique. Using the pull buoy, I’m able to use more strokes before taking a breath. I’m already seeing an improvement on speed, which as a runner, I find swimming doesn’t have the same effect. I never feel like I’ve had a proper workout in the pool.

Unfortunately, it’s all I’ve got for the foreseeable future. There is a danger I will try and push myself too far in the pool. I don’t know how, yet. I need to remember that I am consolidating my fitness, and aiming to recover. Will I be able to? I really don’t know.

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