A useful piece of advice one of my coaches, Arthur Bruce, used to give out. What he meant by this was if you’re injured don’t keep testing it to see if it’s mended otherwise you’ll have to keep starting from scratch again. I often think of this advice when I’m injured, but there are times when I disregard it. It’s not that I’m impatient, though of course I am when it comes to running, it’s just that you sometimes have to take a calculated risk, due to an upcoming event.
But lets start this story at the beginning, Monday 30 July 2012, less than 3 weeks to the biggest race of my year. Things have been going well for weeks, I’ve been getting fitter and faster week by week and along the way I’ve picked up 2 British Masters Championship bronze medals. The knee problem that plagued me in 2011 seems to have taken a long holiday and I’m relatively niggle free. Ok, recently I’ve noticed a couple of twinges but after the championship I plan to ease off. Oh yes I did get a bit of a bigger twinge in the hamstring towards the end of the parkrun I ran on Saturday, but it didn’t last and I took Sunday off to go walking slowly in the Cheshire Peak.
Before my own training run, on this fateful day, I’d been out with my longest standing, and currently eldest, client, and we’d smashed her pb over a 4 mile circuit by 2 minutes. I was feeling great. Then I went for my training run, a set of 5 x 3 minutes flat out with 3 minutes recovery. I was flying, I used the same circuit that I use for when I’m training Ray and the first rep is uphill, but I didn’t care I was smashing it. The next rep started downhill and then went up another hill, I was using the downhill to good effect and then I got a slight twinge in the hamstring, just like at the parkrun. The twinge was gone as quick as it came and I pushed on through, I reached the top of the hill and had less than 30 seconds of the rep to go so I pushed on hard and then it happened, a sharp pain in my hamstring, it felt like someone had gripped it and pulled it sideways. I stopped immediately, despite having 7 seconds of my rep left (runners will understand that). I stretched and pressed and there was a dull ache. I knew I couldn’t continue but I could jog so I jogged back home.
Funnily enough at this point I wasn’t too bothered. It could be a tear, but I thought it more likely a pull and not that serious as I was able to jog. I’d give it a few days rest and see how it was. Actually that wasn’t strictly the case as I had a couple of running clients coming in the evening, but they’re beginners so it shouldn’t be too stressful. The run went well, the two ladies made progress, but my hamstring was sore. It was time to cancel all other running sessions I had planned for the week.
As the days progressed I lightly stretched the hamstring, I stopped myself from using the kettlebells, as I’m quite vigorous with them. Each day I could sense it getting stronger but I was getting more and more frustrated. Come Friday I thought it was strong enough to try it out so I hit the treadmill, that way if there was any problem I wouldn’t have to walk a long way back. I was planning 8k, nice and easy, but I just can’t do treadmills slow and before long I was running sub 6 minute mile pace. I got to 4k and I could feel it starting to pull a little, so I slowed down, then it eased so I continued to 6k. At that point I decided to stop.
That afternoon the leg was a bit tender and I was thinking I should take another break. But the next morning it felt good again so I decided to go out from home. This time I’d make sure I didn’t go too quickly by going with Carole. I managed about 5 minutes with Carole but I couldn’t go slow enough and she was starting to breathe heavily. So in the interest of marital harmony I decided to drop her and push the pace a little. As the run went on I found I was comfortably pain free so managed to increase the pace to quite a reasonable one. In the end I did 6 miles and no problems encountered with the hamstring, I could replant it and let it grow for another day.
The next day was Sunday, I was up early but too early for the marathon so I decided I was going to do a decent length run at a decent pace. Just over an hour later I returned, having covered about 9.5 miles and feeling good. No problems with the hamstring, tomorrow I’d try some reps again, slower than last week with short recoveries, to stop me blasting them.
Monday, after another run with my client, this time slightly slower than last week, I was off to do my own reps. I’d decided on 5 x 3mins with a minute recovery but then realised this wasn’t long enough for a 10k session so I changed my mind to 7 x 3mins. I hit the first rep tentatively but built up the speed as I went on. Everything felt fine, I continued at a slightly faster rep pace, then towards the end of the 5th rep I felt my hamstring pull again. This time it wasn’t as big a pull as before but I was clearly unable to continue, I even struggled to jog back to the car.
So what do I do now? I need to come up with a strategy of keeping myself fit, whilst laying off the speed work. I’ve done enough quality over the last few weeks to ensure I’m in good condition but I need to be able to complete the race at race pace and it might, therefore, be better to just run at 6 minute mile pace during the interim and hope I have the memory to run quicker in the event. The worst thing I could do is pull the muscle during the race and then miss my first few months as a Salford Harrier (I tore my hamstring just after I joined Herne Hill and it was torturous waiting to make my debut in the Red & Black). Oh well ce la vie, maybe it’s time to take Arthur’s advice, I might even put down some compost.
What else has been happening this weekend; well there was a big event going on fairly local, the Meerbrook 15k, Katy was running in that and, despite the fact that I had to cancel on her for Tuesday’s session, she managed a huge pb by more than 6 minutes, 1:13:36. There was also the usual fun up at Pennington Flash, where my great rival, Jeff Whittington, decided to do what I couldn’t last week, improve the age graded record, putting it even further away from my grasp. Oh and then there was the Olympics, great stuff from Jess, the medal was never in doubt once she’d finished the javelin. Sympathetically hair coloured Greg Rutherford was fantastic in the long jump, in his pre-event interview he sounded confident enough to win and I believed him, honest. Then the one us distance runners had been waiting for, Mo Farah in the 10000m. I was nervous for Mo as I could see the multiple runners from African nations running to spoil it for Mo, as had happened with Cav in the cycling, but Mo ran an extremely mature and confident race and won superbly. Well done Mo, now go do the double.
Written by Roger Alsop