Successes and Setbacks

They do say that life is a funny old game, and running is no different. Sometimes everything is going well and other times it seems that fate is conspiring against us. This has certainly been the case for me during these first few weeks of 2013 and as a result I have been, perhaps uncharacteristically, quiet on the blogging front.

Last time I wrote, I was filled with joy at the thought of beginning to run again, having equipped myself with a brand new pair of neutral running shoes. Not only that, but I seemed to be moving beyond my injury woes of the latter part of 2012 and was confident I could run without any discomfort. My plans were set for a very gradual increase in mileage, a 10K race in May was entered and I was considering the possibility of one or two other events along the way. At last, things seemed to be going my way.

The plan was simple: start with 1 mile then, assuming there was no problem, add on a quarter mile each time so that my mileage would increase by roughly a mile each week until I built some base miles. Since I embarked on this plan in a week of near-permanent snow and wintry showers, I took to the treadmill and followed my short runs with 20 minutes on the bike to increase the length of my workout. I ran 3 times in 4 days and everything was going well. Then disaster struck: I got the flu.

Now when I say flu, I don’t mean flu as in, “I have a touch of the flu” (translation: reasonably heavy cold). No, I mean full-on can hardly lift your head let alone get out of bed, running a temperature for days, razor blades in the throat, flu! As someone who is rarely unwell and almost never off work, I can honestly say I’ve never felt so ill in my life. I was off work for a week and a half, a full week of which was spent confined to my bed doing everything I could to get even the slightest respite from the relentless fever and other symptoms (as it turns out, there really is little respite!) and trying, unsuccessfully, to sleep. When I was finally able to transfer myself to the sofa at the end of that week and put on something other than pyjamas, I discovered that all my energy had been completely zapped. Simply being on my feet to go and get a drink was leaving me dizzy and light-headed and everyone I knew suddenly became an expert, telling me it could be weeks (WEEKS!!) before I felt like my energy levels were back to normal. Not ideal for someone used to feeling strong, fit and healthy. What was worse was that I realised there was nothing I could do about it and I was just going to have to ride it out and wait.

Ironically, my tentative return to work coincided with my running club’s annual presentation dinner at which I was to be presented with the trophy for being the most improved female runner in 2012. Like a true athlete(!), I rested all day, drank some coffee and attempted to look the part. The biggest clues that I wasn’t yet myself were my inability to finish my sticky toffee pudding (my favourite dessert!) and how much the event (which mainly involved sitting!) tired me out.

That aside, it was an enjoyable evening. Apart from the obvious draw of winning a trophy, our guest speaker this year was Doctor Andrew Murray, the Scottish ultra marathoner who has completed a number of incredible running challenges over the last few years. He spoke of his adventures and regaled us with humorous tales of his running exploits before presenting the prizes.

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Unsurprisingly, we were all inspired to get a copy of his book and Andrew was more than happy to sign these and spend time chatting to us all about running and answering questions.

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This was last weekend, and after another week of taking it easy, trying to get my appetite back to normal and sleeping quite a lot, this weekend I felt ready to try some very light exercise. On Friday I went for a gentle swim which felt fine, so today I decided to make a date with my old friend the treadmill. I ran a mile, keeping the pace quite slow, then did a bit of stretching. The run was fine and I definitely enjoyed being able to get back to it again, but at the same time I know I’m not yet ready for quite the same level of physical activity as I’m used to and will have to continue to take it easy for the time being. Interestingly, I’m ok with this. I know I’ll be ready for a 10K in May and anything else along the way will be a bonus. The extra time out means there’s now no sign of my injury and my legs are fresh (albeit out of condition for running). I need to work on my fitness and gradually rebuild my mileage, but I can accept that it might be a slow road back to begin with and just feel thankful that I can run at all.

This year was always going to be about starting again, about tweaking my form and working on strength and flexibility in the gym. Ok, I’ve had a setback, but last week’s dinner reminded me of the successes I’ve enjoyed and the successes which are (hopefully) yet to come. My usual tenacious spirit is returning and I’m up for the challenge(s) ahead. Today’s mile was the first of many miles along that road. There may yet be some bumps to come, but at least I’ll have my shiny trophy to remind me of what can be achieved with a little perseverance.

Yes, life is indeed a funny old game…!

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