I’m ridiculously happy to be a Middle Aged Man In Lycra again
CAN YOU reach a milestone when you haven’t actually travelled a mile?
Well, if you can, then I did. Today, I reached a milestone.
I came through a run uninjured for the first time since I busted up my knee back in February, and I feel splendid.
I covered less than one-and-a-half kilometres in just under eight minutes and – though Mo Farah won’t give a shit – the modest achievement has got me horribly excited.
You see, I thought I was done. I thought the knee was proper knackered and I would never run again.
And if I couldn’t run, I’d have finally arrived at my most dreaded spiritual destination: Past It
If I couldn’t run, I was far more likely to get depressed and go batshit, maybe once and for all.
The hundred or so days since I injured myself was a long time to nurse dark thoughts like this. A long time trying not to panic, so panic I did.
The fear manifested itself in a desperate searching-out of other ways to sweat out my demons, since I am incapable, mentally or physically, of sitting still for more than a few days.
And, because I was losing my strength and virility, I put my crocked body through a series of grisly trials to prove that it could still – in some ways – cut it.
First, there was a 75 miler on the bike that finished way up in the Chiltern Hills and – last weekend – a lumpy cycle to the Kent countryside, followed 25 minutes later by my first game of cricket in three years.
The day after cricket, I did a weights and abs session and ended up with a body like a worn out envelope that had been ripped four times across the centre. I now had a busted knee, a groin strain, screaming lower abdominals, an aching back and tendinitis in my left elbow. Reluctantly, I declared yesterday a Rest Day.
This morning, however, I realised that a test run might be on when I noticed my abs had stopped screaming at me. The knee wasn’t feeling irritated, either, although the groin was still a tad peeved.
So I warmed everything up with heat patches, then prepped the groin with my physio’s special stretch, which involves me lying splayed face-down on a bed, gripping the end of the mattress hard and yelping at the discomfort. But I’m fine with homoerotic, if it gets me back on the track.
Despite all my precautions, running again was horrible at first. The groin groaned, and the pain in the side of my knee had slipped mysteriously round to the kneecap as I struggled with weight-bearing exercise again.
And it felt like I was bearing a lot of weight. I was staggering forward like a Fat Lad toting a wardrobe; feet slapping down on the dirt at the end of nervous, choppy, strides. I feared stretching out my stride and finding a flow, unable to trust that my knee would not collapse.
In the past, when I covered long distances, I counted my steps to distract myself from pain and tiredness. So I tried it again here, to forget the fear.
Fifty, a hundred steps – about 200 metres – and now I had a sweat on, while the way I was breathing all at once seemed familiar rather than strained.
And then, there it was again, running. I was taller, and almost pain-free. It wasn’t a struggle: it was a joy, just like it had been so many times back in the magical past…
I’d planned on doing just over a kilometre, stopping at the entrance to the park. But I ran on – first to that signpost, then past that old lady with the kid…
I bit off a bit more than I’d planned to but now I was starting to feel the knee again, in the usual place.
I heard the voice of my physio saying: As soon as it starts to hurt, stop.
Ice it and then try another run in a few days…
And this time, I did stop, worried above all that I might deprive myself of this feeling in the future.
I looked at my Strava: 1.47km, 190 calories burned.
I couldn’t have been more chuffed if I’d just completed an Ironman.