By the end of June I had run 71km and was looking forward to the coming weekend, despite being laden with a problem with the Achilles’ tendon in my right leg. I’d had a few days rest and hoped that would help me get going again.
It didn’t turn out that way. I ran about 16km that first weekend of July, but I felt like I was held together by string not elastic bands. My movement was so stiff, lopsided and the Achilles was so sore after both days — but I was also determined to keep the leg working, and rub the tendon and massage my muscles as much as possible.
Things heated up when I got a number through the post for the Vale of York 10 miler, which I’d entered early last year. Covid-19 delayed it and I hadn’t twigged it had been rearranged until the number arrived. I decided: I had a couple of weeks to see how things went. I didn’t have to do the run, but the other side of the coin was having a race booked in might focus my mind and my approach to running.
I worked through in my head a plan for a slower pace that I might be happy with, work some stints walking into any “running” time to let me keep a check on the Achilles and not overwork it. Don’t worry about people going “uuuuurrr he’s not running”, be worried about keeping moving and be able to keep moving.
After after several 5km-ish runs employing this, on Sunday 11 July I pushed the distance out to about 10km. It wasn’t bad, tolerable — and I was doing the maths if I did another 6km what kind of run would I be doing over 10 miles? I figured that some thing like 1 hour 45 mins would be good given things. Push on for the next week and see how I feel.
A week on I didn’t feel bad, the race felt doable. The 10 miles felt a stretch but committing to the race in my head had made me sensibly cautious to try to make sure I could take part. My Achilles was feeling a little stiff after each session, but I could feel my leg loosening more. 6 minute kilometre pace was acceptable.
So, a couple of days’ rest and then the evening of Tuesday 20 July I drove over towards York. It was about 27ºC when I arrived at 6:15pm. I did a small warm up for about ten minutes, jogging up and down the airfield track. The Achilles felt OK, made sure I’d drunk enough, went to the loo and lined up at the back. 1:45:00 would be just fine I told myself, don’t fret. Try to do the first 5km without walking, then after that walk 100m every kilometre if I have to.
I made it through the first 5km without walking, my pace averaging something like 5:21 per kilometre, something like 26:17 for the 5km, which felt like goal 1 sorted. Next to finish (2) and hopefully clock around 1:45:00 (3). There were good kilometres — a few I just ran completely, especially towards the end — and there were some that felt slow as I cautiously walked 100m and the odd couple that were painful.
But I knew I was making good time. At one point, with about 5km to go, I had a wildly optimistic moment of mental maths that 1:30:00 might have been doable, ha. As I came back onto the airfield road I knew I was going to easily beat my target. I tried to just go with the flow to the end, let my legs cycle me forwards. I glanced down at my watch as I turned the last corner and saw I was about to hit 1:34:00. I pushed that little more, see if I could be a solid ten minutes faster than I planned. I crossed at 1:34:18, 5:49 per KM. My Achilles wasn’t hurting violently, my tibia was showing no reaction, for a second I felt a little choked. But then I saw there were free Snickers bars and some grass to crash on. I felt a smidgeon of joy and a huge sense of relief.
I had an easy week after that, one more run and then a steady end to the month. In July I ran 116 kilometres over 15 sessions, my highest monthly total since July last year. That feels like steady progress again.
Looking ahead to August I want to keep things steady still, not tempt the Achilles or the tibia, and try to sensibly nudge past 100km again. Run every other day, cycle on the in between days. If I get past 120km maybe passing 1000km for the year is possible. But I’m not going to get ahead of myself. Just look forward to a summer month of running, fingers crossed.