In the second instalment of his marathon training blog, Northern Soul’s Drew Savage battles injury, embarks on physio and gets back on the road.
This time round, it was all going to be so simple. I’d made so many mistakes trying to train for last year’s marathon, I’d learned from them all, and I wasn’t going to make them again. Nothing could go wrong, right?
Wrong. And getting wronger. Just six days into marathon training, things went spectacularly pear-shaped. I’d pulled out of a 200km Audax bike ride to avoid doing anything silly to my hamstrings and opted instead for a scenic but easy excursion with my fell running friends. Although there’s a certain amount of risk involved with fell running, it has a much lower impact on your joints and muscles than pounding hard roads and pavements. Plus, I’ve been doing it for 18 months with no mishaps.
So one moment I was experiencing unbridled running joy, flying downhill along a grassy track on a place known as Sweet Hill, and the next I was lying on the ground with my eyes clamped shut, screaming like a child. I’d gone over on my ankle on a rock hiding under a long bit of grass and was suddenly having an experience that went straight in at number three on my list of Most Painful Experiences I’ve Ever Had.
When I eventually stopped screaming and swearing and opened my eyes, the concern on everyone’s faces was quite touching. They patched me up and got me to the pub (a vital component of any fell run) and I began to wonder if my marathon training had ended a month earlier than last year. But an x-ray revealed that nothing was broken or fractured, and so the rehab process began.
At times like this it’s important to know a good physio and luckily I have a great one. Andy is a top-class 400 metre athlete and is brilliant at understanding the frustrations and challenges that running-based injuries present. He diagnosed an acute inversion sprain of my anterior talofibular ligament and a strain to my peroneus brevis tendon (he knows lots of long words), told me to buy two mop buckets, and they would become my new best friends.
Apparently the best treatment is to fill one bucket with warm water, one with iced water, and stand in the warm one for two minutes and the iced one for one minute. Then repeat that five times. Later on, you do the warm one for just one minute and the iced one for a very painful two. And mop buckets are better because you can get your whole foot in there.
So, as the swelling on my ankle gradually reduced and the bruising on my leg turned from green to a rather fetching purple, I sat on the sidelines feeling ever more frustrated. I tried not to harp on about it too much to my friends – and frequently failed in that regard. Not to put too fine a point on it, the month that followed was effing horrible. Not just the frustration of not being able to run – the number of days I looked out of the window and thought, I should be training, it’s a lovely day for a run, but I can’t – but the constant faffing about with arnica and ice buckets, the tedium of the rehab exercises, and the fact that most of the time I was still in reasonably constant low-level pain, especially whenever I tried to use it.
In the past I’d have thought, oh, just a sprained ankle, ho hum. Then you experience the reality. I know there are people out there with real problems and proper serious injuries, and obviously a sprained ankle is nothing compared to that. But in terms of the normal run-of-the-mill injuries you can pick up running (and I’ve incurred a lot of them over the past 12 months), this has been my least favourite so far…by a very long way.
But all bad things come to an end and after four weeks I was allowed to test the ankle out. Before I knew it I’d managed to complete the slowest 11 miles of my life along the River Mersey to Didsbury. So with the blessing of our club coach Gavin and Andy my physio, I was back on the training plan. There remained just one question: how to get back up to speed and, more importantly, distance?
And distance is far more important. I’ve lost a lot of my basic speed over the last few weeks and put on weight. But the one thing pretty much everyone seems to agree on at this stage of marathon training is this: concentrate on the endurance aspect. Get the miles under your belt and worry about the speed later.
By and large, it’s been fun. On a clear calm Sunday we had a lovely snowy run down the Middlewood Way and back up the Macclesfield Canal to Marple – and I managed to complete 15 miles for only the second time in my life. I prefer not to think about how far off my target marathon pace I was, and a lovely 10-mile trail run last Saturday above Lake Windermere helped to keep my mind off it. My weekly mileage is up to between 30 to 40 miles and I’m very happy with that.
But training for a spring marathon in winter does present its own peculiar challenges, and the recent wintry weather has certainly provided that. As I battled my way along Brantingham Road in Chorlton last night to complete the last of my 10 miles, running what felt like the longest mile of my life into the mother of all headwinds with diagonal hail stinging my face and legs and my head feeling painfully numb with the freezing cold, I remembered why I’m training for this marathon. I’m helping to keep on top of my own diabetes but, more importantly, trying to raise a few quid to fund research so those who aren’t able to tackle it solely through diet and exercise like me can benefit from my ability to do so.
By Drew Savage
Group photo by Jonathon Lee
Please, don’t take *any* medical or coaching advice from me. I’m not qualified and all I can do is repeat what I’ve been told by people who seem better informed, and pass on the mistakes I’ve made in the hope that you don’t make them too.
Drew Savage is an amateur runner and Type 2 diabetic, making his second attempt at training for the 2015 Manchester Marathon after making a fearful mess of things the first time round and not even getting as far as the start line. You can learn everything you’ll ever want to know about How Not To Do It here on Northern Soul, and help fight diabetes by sponsoring Drew at https://www.justgiving.com/DrewSavage