I remember there was a time when I used to look forward to having a day off. It would be a break for my body to recover from the daily pounding that I intentionally inflict upon it. After countless weeks of injury however, my attitude has changed. The special nature attributed to having a day off has worn thin, just as it always does when you have too much of a good thing. Each day off is a day wasted, a day when everyone else is getting fitter, while I’m just getting older. You may grumble about running, you may complain about how tired you feel, how you had to get up early and how cold it was out, but when you unable to run anymore, that is when you really realise how beneficial running truly is.
Injuries are inevitable in running. It only stands to reason that, sometimes, you will only know the limit of your body once you’ve gone past it. It is a very lucky and rare athlete that manages to go a career without ever missing a degree of training through injury. And so, with that mindset in place, with the knowledge that everyone else has been training hard, I have tried to be as professional as possible in the past month. When things are going well, it is very easy to go to the gym, to stretch, to do all those little things that just might make a difference. Running is simple, training is relatively straightforward. So often, however, once injury hits, everything stops. The diet goes out the window, the normal temptations of daily life creep back in and you forget for a moment that you are trying to attain the peak physical potential that your body possesses. For several weeks or so after the disappointment of Zurich, that is where I found myself.
Three weeks in and slightly bloated, while working back in A+E in Belfast, I reached a stage where a decision needed to be made. I was out of shape but not unfit. However, with the likelihood of another six weeks out with injury, it was going to be a long and slow road back. I had enjoyed the luxuries of a normal life for a few weeks, and while it was fun, part of me knew that it had to stop. It is how we respond to these setbacks that really define how good an athlete we are. This is the time to be professional, perhaps even more so than the few weeks leading into a championship race. After three weeks, the sharp pain in my hip had subsided and I was able to start walking again. I restarted my conditioning work and decided that while Zurich was a missed opportunity, there will be bigger races to come.
I had a repeat MRI scan ten days ago. It revealed that the labral (with an r) tear in my hip is still present. However, having been relatively painfree for a month, I was given the go ahead to start running again. Having returned back to my base in London, I’ve been intermixing short, slow runs with sessions on the crosstrainer. There is a reassurance to be felt from being surrounded by other athletes, who are all trying to recover from their own tough summer seasons. I’m currently up to thirty minutes running painfree, which, from where I was, is a massive step. The enjoyment is coming back, not due to the speed or distance of my runs, but in the mere motion itself. With six weeks until the Irish intercounties trials, and only nine until the European cross country championships, my mindset has now changed. No longer is it a question of will I be running but rather, can I get fit enough in time to win. I don’t know but first things first, I’m running again and compared to where I was a month ago, that’s a very happy thought.