Bouncing back?

Following my first ever marathon DNF at CTS South Devon due to a torn calf, I went on the hunt for a physiotherapist who could put me back together in time for CTS Northumberland in just three weeks time. The good folk at Runner’s Retreat in Marlow came to my aid (again) and suggested Drummond Physiotherapy Clinic for me.

The doctors I had seen at two hospitals said I had a (bad) Grade 1 tear of the medial head of the gastrocnemius (calf) muscle in my right leg, it would take 4-6 weeks to heal on its own; I was hoping that with some proper therapy I could get better sooner.

Calf muscles
Calf muscles

At my first consultation with the physio, Nkoya Wright, she agreed with the doctors’ diagnosis and we started right away with a plan to get me back up and running. She didn’t say it at the time, but later I’d find out she wasn’t hopeful I’d be running within the six weeks, but we’d do our best together to make it happen. After nearly three weeks since the injury, during one of many visits to the clinic, Nkoya told me to prepare myself for not running the CTS Northumberland ultra; I was still na├»vely clinging to hope that I could be better in time. Reality got in the way and with just a few days to go before the event, I was still in pain and still not able to run, so I withdrew from the event.

After nearly four weeks, I was at the clinic (again) and Nkoya wanted to see me run my first steps, so I jumped up onto their treadmill. She was standing behind me as I took my first tentative paces on the machine, filming. I ran for three minutes and although there was still some slight pain, I was happy that I was running again; or at least I thought I was running. After I finished my time on the machine, Nkoya showed my the video of my style; there was no way that was me on the screen! I’m a runner and that video was of a … I don’t know what moves like that, but runners certainly don’t, or shouldn’t. My right leg was travelling in a corkscrew pattern and crossing over the left, I was bobbing up and down and all over the place! She gave me another suite of exercises and poses to hopefully correct some of my “gait aberrations”; some of which might have been residual from the injury, some might have been over-compensation from the injury, some of which might be because I’ve rarely ever run on a treadmill, and some might be just because I have a “unique” running style.

Adding illness to injury, I had also picked up a nasty flu (Tracy says I then shared it with her!) My chest was full of horrible “stuff” which appeared during prolonged, violent coughing fits. I didn’t get a lot of sleep with my own ailments, and for a few nights when I was feeling marginally better, Tracy was feeling worse so I didn’t get a lot of sleep on those nights either. It started to subside, but like the flu I had at home in Perth in 2014, it didn’t go away completely.

A few days after my treadmill episode, after four weeks of exercises and drills, massage, ice, heat and rest later, I was cleared to go for my first post-injury training run. I headed out the door onto the Thames Path. I felt weird. I felt uncomfortable. I felt sore. I was running again!

On my first run, I managed 4km. My right leg felt a little tender, my left leg felt like it was over-compensating so it felt a little sore too. My chest felt horrible. The next day, I headed out again. Running still felt weird. Something was different. Something had changed. Hopefully, this is what an improved, efficient running style is supposed to feel like? I was going to do 6km but ran a little further and finished 7km. My legs felt the same as the previous run, but I had run further so I wasn’t concerned. My lungs were still horrible. A couple of days later, 10km, then a few days after that 5km before a 5km parkrun at Upton Court. In the second week of running, 12km, 15km and another 10km outing at parkrun Upton Court. The next day, Sunday, I went out with the intention of going 16km but turned around at Eton and ended up running 21.1km (I was also in a carb depleted state, so ran 17km before hitting the wall, but still made it home in sub-2 hours for the HM.) I felt like a “runner” again. I felt happy.

Six days to go before CTS Sussex half-marathon.

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