The Long and Winding Road (to recovery!)

I’ve been rather quiet on the blogging front of late, partly out of post-marathon laziness, but mainly because there’s only so much one can write about not running before it grows rather dull! It’s now been 5 weeks since the Lochaber Marathon and about a month since I posted, so it’s definitely time for an update.

It had always been my intention to take at least a couple of weeks out after the marathon in order to ensure I recovered properly before beginning to train again. For that reason, the first couple of non-running weeks didn’t really bother me. I enjoyed the chance to relax and catch up with other tasks, although I really could have done without the niggling discomfort in my left hip caused by the bursitis and the associated niggles in my lower leg. The combination of that discomfort with the usual tiredness and tight muscles that make up the aftermath of a marathon meant that I really had no desire whatsoever to run. All my kit was put away and I didn’t even have sufficient interest to pick up a running magazine! Of course, that’s all beginning to change now.

After about 2 weeks I got back into the gym for some weight training and even a little bit of time on the cross trainer. As I began to feel better and keen to re-establish my routine, I kept thinking that I really wasn’t doing enough, yet at the same time I knew that my hip really wasn’t up to more rigorous training yet. The physio’s advice was to take 4-6 weeks off running (although cross training is ok) in order to let the bursitis clear. I have been very good and kept away from any activity which could potentially set me back, but round about 3-4 weeks into this rest period, I began to feel sufficiently recovered in every other respect to want to run again: my post-marathon cold had cleared, my cardio function felt more normal and, crucially, the tenderness and discomfort in my lower leg had gone. All that was holding me back, was my hip.

It was at this point that the whole thing began to bother me more. As far as I was concerned, I had reached some kind of plateau in my recovery and progress had halted. I really want to get out and run, I even think I could, I just know that without my hip feeling “right” that it really wouldn’t be a good idea. I don’t want to be right back in the same position in a few weeks or months, so the best thing is to wait until I feel the bursitis really has cleared. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself!

This week, I have made some adjustments to my training as I was concerned that some of the things I was doing were aggravating the injury. My PT sessions are now being used to focus on upper body (the glute strengthening work, although important in terms of helping to prevent this problem recurring, can wait for now) and I’ve changed my cardio sessions from the cross trainer to the bike. Ordinarily I don’t enjoy the bike, mainly because no amount of padding seems to make the seat more comfortable, but bike sessions are allowing me to get a decent cardio workout that’s comparable to a run in terms of calories burnt, but without any impact on my hip. Furthermore, a fellow runner suggested I try some ibuprofen gel. I wasn’t sure whether or not it would help, but after just a few days I can genuinely say there is a noticeable difference. Ok, so I’m still not ready to head out for a run, but at least things are going in the right direction again! I don’t know whether it’s the ibuprofen itself, or the massaging action of applying the gel, but either way, it’s helped and that’s good enough for me.

So what next? Well, my running goals remain the same: full recovery followed by a gradual increase in mileage to prepare for the Great Scottish Run in September. I may even manage a couple of shorter distance races in the interim should I feel up to it. In the more immediate term, next Sunday will mark 6 weeks since the marathon and the approximate amount of time the physio suggested I should allow to recover. I’ve already said that if I don’t feel ready to start running properly by that point then I shall return to the physio, however this means that I will actually have to bite the bullet and try a short, slow run anyway as the physio will need more accurate feedback about how my hip feels during and after a run in order to decide on the most appropriate treatment. I guess this means that at some point in the very near future I shall be heading out for some kind of test run. Hopefully that run will mark a return to training and a gradual rebuilding of my mileage. If nothing else, I’ve got to (finally) try out the very “special” new supportive running shoes I’ve bought to help control the over pronation which has been at the root of all the injury problems I’ve suffered. They’re not pretty and they weigh a little more than my other shoes, but if they finally address the problem then it will be worth it!

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