Race Week Rollercoaster

Things have most definitely been up and down this week, and not just because of those taper emotions. The ongoing problems with my left leg seemed to change on a daily basis, with me finally reaching meltdown towards the end of the week and declaring that actually, maybe it would be silly to go ahead. My concern was not so much the marathon itself (I have proven my tenacity and ability to complete what I start!) but with the long-term impact. What good would it do to complete a marathon if I was then sidelined with injury for months afterwards? I had continued with very sensible cross training, stretching, foam rolling and massage but still the leg just felt “wrong” and I struggled to find the right words to describe what “wrong” actually meant. I just knew that something, somewhere was a problem.

The week began on my “favourite” machine: the cross trainer. A 30 minute session to keep me ticking over. I followed this on Tuesday with a swim which felt good and, at this point, I still felt positive that everything was on the mend and I would be fine by the weekend. My calf was improving and the foam roller had tackled the tight spot in my IT band.

On Wednesday I had a massage scheduled to flush out my legs ready for the marathon. I decided it would be sensible to go for a short run beforehand in order to have some up to date feedback on how everything felt. I ran about 2.5 miles and although I could still feel a bit of a tightness in my lower leg, I was still able to maintain my normal pace and felt sure that the massage would address that tightness. I was, however, a bit more bothered by my hip this time. In the immediate aftermath of the massage, everything felt good. The improvement from the previous week was noted and there seemed to be nothing obvious that would stop me from running. I spent the remainder of the day with a friend and made sure to keep relaxed with my feet up, yet by evening my leg felt like it was throbbing and even a bath didn’t really make much of a difference. I put this down to the leg having been worked on and flushed out, but I still wasn’t happy when I got up on Thursday.

The first thing I tried was to actually move, wondering if perhaps I had been too sedentary the day before. After another 30 minute cross trainer session I tried a 5 minute jog on the treadmill. I was still feeling a tightness in my lower leg (it seemed, rather inexplicably, to have moved!) but some lengthy foam rolling failed to find any tight spots anywhere. As the day went on I felt more and more frustrated at the “wrong” feeling in my leg and practically demanded that Steve check it over when he got home that evening. The outcome: he was stumped and suggested maybe I should see a physio. It was at this point that I had my meltdown. Surely involving a physio at this stage would have a logical outcome and I would be advised not to run on Sunday? After spending all those weeks training and clocking up pleasing times, this was the worst possible thing for me and I sloped off to bed with a dark cloud hanging over me. A dark cloud that stayed with me into Friday morning.

Although my leg and hip actually felt somewhat better on Friday morning, I decided that this time I was not going to assume things were improving and phoned the physio I used when I became injured whilst training for the Paris Marathon. Fortunately, he was able to see me that afternoon. Unfortunately, the day dragged until the time came for that appointment. I was convinced he was gong to tell me not to run, a devastating thought but at the same time rather a relief to know that a final decision would be made by the time my physio session was done.

The physio was great. After a thorough examination of my leg in comparison to the other, he told me that it was a classic presentation for a distance runner (ok, so I knew I wasn’t a freak!) and that the whole problem could be traced to the over pronation in my feet. Obviously I knew that I over pronate and wear running shoes designed to support my arches and prevent my feet rolling in too much. Admittedly, my current shoes are nearing the end of their life and I already planned to retire them after this marathon, but I really hadn’t considered that this bio mechanical issue would be at fault on this occasion.

The physio explained that despite training sensibly, stretching lots and having regular massage, I had picked up an over-use problem, namely bursitis in my hip (an inflammation of the bursa, a thin tissue covering the bone) which in turn had led to my body over-compensating, hence the problems in my lower leg. He assured me that I wasn’t going mad because I could no longer find any problem in my lower leg, but explained that I was feeling referred discomfort from the hip. He also explained that there was nothing I did or didn’t do which led to this, it was simply “one of those things”. So far so good, but what about the marathon which at this point was a mere 2 days away? Even better news on that front: I could run and although I might feel some discomfort, so long as it wasn’t worsening, I could continue without any damage being done. Although he said it might hurt a bit afterwards, everything hurts after a marathon and the bursitis should clear during my recovery period after the race. He put additional insoles in my running shoes to further support my feet and gave me my race day instructions which boiled down to “you have to go for it!” If I feel the discomfort worsening, I am to remove the insoles and see if it makes a difference. If it still continues to worsen, them I have to pull out. Ok, so no guarantees, but this is a MARATHON, there’s never any guarantee even if you toe the start line completely injury-free! The dark cloud began to lift and I finally began to turn my mind to actually racing on Sunday after near enough writing off the possibility of even turning up!

This morning, I had a short run (2.5 miles) to test out the insoles and see how my legs felt. Pleasingly, everything felt good. The tight feeling in my lower leg was minimal (I probably wouldn’t have been aware of it under different circumstances) and I was running comfortably. I was aware that I was tending to run a bit quicker than my target race pace so I know I’ll need to keep an eye on that in the first couple of miles tomorrow while i settle into my rhythm otherwise I’ll really pay for it in the second half of the race, but otherwise that’s it. I can do no more. The remainder of today has been spent organising my kit, hydrating, carb loading and making sure I rest. All that’s left now, is a small matter of 26.2 miles and finally, I’m ready. Bring it on!

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