For runners, athletes, foot models or anyone who makes good use of their limbs, injury is like a dirty black cloud. It haunts you, gently goading you with unexpected shin splints or sore toes like droplets of rain, while you do your upmost to avoid the downpour. Every day you stretch, worry, wriggle and try to stay in optimum condition to avoid any damage that might prevent you from hitting the streets.
With most new runners, as your obsession gradually begins to consume your every waking thought, so does your health. You start cancelling big nights out on the piss with your mates in favour of cosy nights in front of the telly, so you don’t suffer on your morning run.
Before long, body preservation reaches a crescendo. Despite your other half’s protestations, you start rubbing exotic oils that smell like old ladies into your sore limbs and sleeping in compression gear that makes you look like a giant Lycra sausage. But like it or not, pounding the pavements in excess comes with its drawbacks and if you don’t take good care of yourself, runners are prone to injury.
When I first discovered running, I thought I was invincible. I annoyed the shit out of the Women’s Running gang, as while they all struggled with various aches and pains, I glided smugly from 5K to 28-miles without so much as a blister. Running meant so much to me; it slowly began to shape my entire life. But being a bit of a party animal, I tried to maintain my former life and balance partying like a rock star with an ever-increasing training regime.
A burgeoning obsession with speed also silently began to take over, and runs stopped being about enjoyment and more about punishment. I was so desperate to hit targets and keep up with the fast kids that I forgot why I started running in the first place. Despite starting to feel exhausted, I continued to power on regardless and unsurprisingly my lack of insurance in my legs eventually took its toll.
At the Edinburgh Marathon 2012 I tore a muscle in my leg. I kept on running (okay limping, like a miserable old trout) because I was a fool and determined to finish. This happened two weeks before I moved to Scotland to start a new life in the Borders. Needless to say, moving to the mountains without a working leg was a real bitch. Plus finding a decent physiotherapist in the wilderness was a whole new challenge.
I eventually found a lovely massage therapist who rubbed racing greyhounds on the side. He was very nice, but told me to stop doing any exercise, at all. I quickly became stagnant, lost 100 per cent of my fitness and my muscles turned into burnt steak. I was living in the most beautiful corner of the world and I sat on my arse watching it through a window.
Seeing my friends pursue their running dreams on Twitter was torturous. I badly wanted to be out running, but I was terrified of further injuring myself. One of the reasons I relocated to Scotland was to focus on endurance as opposed to the increasing obsession with speed. And where I was living, short runs weren’t an option. You either set off for a 20 miler in the mountains, or not at all. It was hard to take half measures. I tried several times but repeatedly tore the muscle and eventually resigned myself to hiking.
For reasons unrelated to running, after 15 months I came home. I suspect not being able to run didn’t help, but that’s life. Being injured taught me some valuable lessons that I will never forget. You can’t ever take what you have for granted and if you do, the universe will drop kick you in the nuts to remind you. Also, stop giving a rat’s arse about speed.Since moving back to London in September, I’ve been under the pneumatic thumbs of Mr Simon Lamb, a highly-skilled sports massage therapist who views the body holistically. He’s not a cloud head; the man has thumbs of granite and pummels me to within an inch of my life. But he understands the emotional aspects of running. My brain is part of my body, it’s inside my head. It’s a vital tool in my running, my injury and my recovery. It turns out that, now my torn muscle has recovered, there is no reason why I can’t run again. My body just needed a bit of love. And the one person who wasn’t giving it the love it needed; was me.
Now I’m back running with my old friends Run Dem Crew and skipping around Hampstead Heath at a speed slightly slower than a sausage dog and I couldn’t be happier. I’m glad I got drop kicked by the running gods. It made me realise why I fell in love with running in the first place. I don’t run for PBs or to keep up with the cool kids. I don’t give a shit about distance or speed or punishing myself in gruelling regimes that impact negatively on the rest of my life. I run because it makes me feel good. And then I go and have a nice cold beer and a (veggie) sausage.