If I’m honest, I’ve known for some time, but there’s a difference between knowing something and admitting something. By admitting the reality to others, we are therefore admitting that reality to ourselves. Up until now, I wasn’t ready for that.
But now it’s time. Time to let the world know that I will not be running in the Loch Ness marathon as I originally planned. Although I’m now in a position that I probably can start running again, the lack of training over the past few months means that taking on 26.2 miles right now would be lunacy (I’m crazy, but not that crazy!). I know this is the right decision, but it was not an easy one to make.
In many ways, not being able to run over the past few months resulted in a grief reaction. I lost something precious to me, I struggled and I now realise that, like many an injured runner, I was facing the five stages of grief:
At first, there was denial. At this stage, runners tend to ignore the injury and believe that a few days off, some ice, ibuprofen and stretching will somehow, miraculously, solve the problem. This never happens, yet this was the exact pattern I followed. I added a few more variables such as physio, taping and orthotics, but I still convinced myself that I’d bounce back in no time.
Then there was anger. Anger at my body for letting me down; anger at not being able to do the things I wanted to do; anger at the fact that nobody could really tell me what was wrong (and that some people didn’t seem to believe there was anything wrong at all). But anger is not terribly productive either. Being angry won’t suddenly make everything better or find a miracle cure, it just drains your emotional energy.
When the anger subsides, there’s bargaining. We bargain with absolutely anyone and anything (If I just rest for a few days, can I try a short run? If I promise not to go too fast, can I still do that race? If I ditch the half marathon and cross train, could I not just have a go at the marathon?). We clutch at straws, desperate to keep on going even though it’s causing us pain. If it was anybody else, we’d be telling them to stop being daft and rest, yet when it comes to ourselves we just can’t listen to good advice. And that’s exactly what I was like. Reaching that goal meant everything, and I was looking for any way at all to get there.
Which leads us to the fourth stage: depression. Depression hits as it finally begins to dawn on us that our plans are going to have to change, particularly when we’re not yet ready for that to happen. I’m a nightmare at this stage. I mope about and refuse to do anything useful like strength train, cycle or swim even though these would be worthwhile activities. I stop seeing the point in my rehab exercises and I lose interest in continuing with physio and other appointments. When I reach this stage, I need a really good kick up the backside and a new plan to get me back on track. Luckily, Steve is usually there to administer just such a kick!
It was at this stage that I found cycling. Admittedly, I was reluctant at first. I said that I didn’t cycle, that it was scary, that my bike was in a state after years of neglect, but then I gave it a shot and discovered that cycling was much better than I had expected. Cycling got me back outside into the fresh air. It wasn’t running, but I could feel my muscles working, my heart pounding and my lungs burning. I loved it! I found new routes (which I plan to run on eventually), I found a whole new community of friendly people to talk to and I found new excuses to buy myself brightly coloured kit! Running may be my first love, but cycling has proved to be a tempting mistress and saw me through a summer of not running.
Thanks to cycling, I was at last able to reach the final stage and come to an acceptance that my running would be on hold for a while. My body is telling me that it’s not yet ready to run long distances, and I’m ok with that. I have plans in place for a spring marathon in my favourite city in the world, but right now my focus is on preparing for my first cycling event, Cycletta Scotland on the 5th of October. Having that to look forward to made it much easier to withdraw officially from the marathon, and as soon as I did I upgraded my Cycletta entry to the 40km distance. I might even take on a longer sportive at some point next year if the time is right. My experience at the Relay Wild Triathlon has spurred me on to work on my swimming and this week I had another session with a swimming instructor. I’ve returned to Metafit, a class I’ve really missed, and am entertaining thoughts of a short run, but will likely wait until after Cycletta.
All in all, it’s been a roller coaster of emotions, but in many ways I feel better for taking the decision not to run next week. I feel like a great weight of pressure has been lifted from my shoulders and I’ve found a new hobby that I not only enjoy, but which will be of benefit to my running when I make my comeback. My challenge for 2014 may not end up exactly as planned, but I shall continue my fundraising next year, and next week shall join one of the Team Macmillan cheer points at the Loch Ness marathon to support the runners all the way to the finish line. There’s a lot I can be grateful for, and soon I know I’ll be running again. In the meantime, I have a beautiful new piece of kit to keep me motivated:
How do you cope with change?
What’s the hardest decision you’ve had to make recently?