Running Like A Mouth Full Of Cotton Wool

A first run for six weeks has inspired a happy flurry of similes!

Stretching again, and enjoying the yellows

MY BODY SAID ‘Yes’, but my mind said ‘No’.

My body said ‘Yes’, but my mind said ‘No’.

My body said ‘Yes’, but my mind said ‘No’.

But, in the end, my body won – I was going to try running for the first time since I crocked my knee in October.   

I had a hangover* and felt generally under-exercised, but I didn’t want to go for yet another ride, or do my boring strengthening exercises again.

For a month, I’d been restoring the damaged meniscus of my left knee with scores of monstrous – and monstrously dull – Bulgarian Lunges.

And – after not being able to walk safely down a sloping pavement six weeks ago – I was confidently taking on the stairs again and walking pain-free.

My knees started clicking loudly and sporadically, like turnstiles at a tenth-tier football ground”

The joint felt stronger, and I started yearning to be out there again with My People: the annoying ones that huff past you on the pavement, beneath small clouds of exertion and smugness, firm butts stuffed Haggis-like into tight Lycra sheaths.

But the more I thought about it, the more my mind told my body that it wasn’t ready.

Both my knees – including the one I thought was sort of fixed – started grumbling and twingeing, then clicking loudly and sporadically, like turnstiles at a tenth-tier football ground.

Don’t do it!’ counselled my Inner Wimp, reminding me that The Plan until now had been to run at Christmas. But the thirteen shopping days until then seemed to stretch away into infinity – and besides, I really, REALLY fancied just a little run.

So I went out, promising I wouldn’t push my luck. I’d only do a mile…I’d stop if it hurt…

The strides my legs took were too long and floppy, like a new-born giraffe after a couple of hours’ practice”

I pressed the now-unfamiliar ‘Run’ icon on Strava and set off, left out of the gate – and found that, in the six and a half weeks since I last ran, my body had largely forgotten how to do it.

The strides my legs took were too long and floppy, like a new-born giraffe after a couple of hours’ practice. Part of my legs felt like a flapping trouser leg that needed taking in.

My hips – perhaps from all the work I’ve been doing to get them more mobile – felt too fluid, spinning hither and yon, like something castorised and over-enthusiastically oiled.

In general, my body felt fluffy and heavy at the same time, the way a mouth feels when it’s filled with cotton wool.

Last time I did it, the route I chose was easy: a few hundred metres of flat, then a gentle downward slope to the park. But, after just 130 steps, I was out of breath.

By 300 steps, I was feeling queasy, and by 700, when I’m normally not even warm, I had to remind myself that I was halfway there and that the slope would soon be kicking in.

It gave me a kick to outstrip The Skip”

Going downhill helped a lot. I finally got going at a half-decent, though not entirely controlled, pace, and began to close on a 20-something couple running in front of me.

As we entered the park, I was near enough to note that they were no mugs: he had a proper wicking* T-shirt on, while her top bore the slightly hubristic legend: “FIRST TEAM CAPTAIN”.

Although they were probably pacing themselves for a much longer effort than mine – and though by the time I caught them, I was blowing hard – it still gave me a bit of a kick to outstrip The Skip.

But at this point, the Inner Wimp reasserted itself: Careful! This is the sort of over-excitement that’s going to crock you again.

And so, I turned away 90 degrees, leaving the youngsters and my competitive urge behind on the tarmac path, and treated the knees to some soft, yielding grass for the final 200 metres.

I skittered like a novice skater… sweating absolute cobs”

By now, I was feeling vague twinges from the spot where I’d trolleyed the meniscus last time, and the grass had turned out to be rain-soaked and slippery. I skittered gingerly, like a novice skater, praying that I wouldn’t do myself a mischief so late in the day.

But it was all right. I made it to my target – an open-air gym where I often finish runs – sweating absolute cobs.

I did a gentle, conscientious set of stretches, steam rising off me like a racehorse, and enjoyed the patches of yellow – stubborn leaves, bright running tops, traffic bollards – defying the park’s greys, browns and drowned greens.

It started to rain, but I liked it.

I promised myself that I’d wait at least three days until I tried to run again… and I’d only run another 400 metres next time out.

Because good knees are too precious to waste.  

* Alas, my dream of long-term sobriety has proven but a cruel chimera.

* That’s ‘wicking’, not ‘wicked’.

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