In just over a month I will be lining up at the beginning of the Hell of a Hill Marathon, the 15th of my 15 in 2015 for Mind, but just the first of three that week as I look to end my challenge with a bang. It has been a long bumpy road since July and an awful lot has happened since my last blog post; I’ve started and stopped therapy, ran 5 marathons and an Ultra, and been injured twice.
I would typically leave the catch up on my health until the end of the post but I figured it is the most important thing and the reason why I’m running all these marathons this year. In my last post I mentioned how I was about to embark on my first ever CBT session and how I was both excited and apprehensive about it. It felt like I had been waiting a long time for the sessions, but I was also worried about the fragile state they would leave me in afterwards. At its worst all it takes is for someone to innocently ask me how I am for me to instantly turn into a sobbing wreck so to intentionally go and poke that bear seemed risky.
After a few sessions it started to become clear that the treatment was struggling to work. There was a reluctance on my part to truly open up in the sessions, mostly because I knew I wouldn’t be able to piece myself back together afterwards, but also a general lack of time or mental drive to attempt any of the takeaway pieces of treatment. We ended up agreeing to having a final session a few weeks back, where I divulged that I’d been so busy with a major project at work, squeezing over 4 months of hours into a 3 month project, that I haven’t been able to find time to try and help myself. The revelation felt like a massive weight off my shoulders, not as it was something I was hiding from my therapist, but also something I was hiding from myself.
At the moment we are on hiatus, agreeing to pick back up at the end of the month when hopefully I have more time, and energy, to focus on getting better. The past few months have been tough, partly why I’ve gone quiet on the blog front and the past few weeks even tougher. It definitely feels like there is a storm brewing, but one I can’t seem to trigger, no matter how hard I try to clear my head.
Just two, short weeks after the 100KM came the Wakefield Marathon. One common theme of the year is not doing enough to help myself (and my legs) recover in between races, and at the Wakefield Marathon I found out just how much the 100KM had taken out of me. Almost from my first step I could feel my legs were empty, and that I would have to very much earn the medal at the end of the race.
Just 6 days after the Wakefield Marathon came the Hamsterley Marathon, and a race that would very much shape the next couple of months. I had spent most of the year annoyed by the massive, almost two month long wait between this race, and the next, but by the time I crossed the finish line I was very grateful of it. Just over 10 miles in to the race I started experiencing issues with my left Achilles, starting with some general pain, before going through the motions with popping sensations and shooting pains up my calf. Ultimately, naively I continued on and finished the race, but ended up seriously injuring myself and jeopardising the next few races.
Mere days before the Halifax Marathon I had no idea as to whether or not I would be able to start, let along complete the race. I had been icing my Achilles repeatedly, doing stretches when I could remember and frustratingly resisted the urge to run on it. But, by the end of August it was still nowhere near healed and with little chance of me not starting the race, I strapped it up and headed to Halifax almost accepting of the fact that my foot would explode at any point. Somehow, and I still don’t know how, I was able to take it steady and run 26 miles on it without much of a whimper.
If there is a cure for Achilles Tendonitis, I’m pretty sure running 50 miles on it isn’t it. The 12th race of the challenge, and my 5th Ultra came in the picturesque backdrop of the Peak District and the Ladybower and Derwent reservoirs. With the Achilles still very much injured there had been little, to no training going into the race, opting instead to go with the resting my ankle approach, and it showed. Mentally and physically I was far from prepared for the race and struggled round most of the way, anxious that my Achilles could start giving me grief at any moment, but also aware that I could drop down to a shorter distance if needed.
Whilst my Achilles held together, the rest of my ankle didn’t and from 30+ miles the pain started shooting all over the place in my foot. Starting from a bruising type pain on the pain, to swelling underneath the ankle bone and lots of weird sensations. Had I been asked if I was happy to continue at the 35 mile checkpoint, before heading back out for the last 15 mile lap I would have probably pulled out, but instead I carried on and adopted a walk/run approach to finish the race. It made it for a very long one, especially when one of the key water stations was all out of water, but 11+ hours after starting I was able to call it a day. More injured than when I started, but with another race ticked off.
Robin Hood Marathon
Just a week after injuring my ankle at the Ladybower 50 I had another a race lined up in the shape of the Robin Hood Marathon. The weird pain and swelling I experienced during the race was not a one off and some serious damage had been done. I spent the week at work with a bucket of ice underneath my desk to plunge my foot into, whilst walking round the office in flip-flops for the rest of the time in a desperate attempt to get my foot back down to a normal size.
By Sunday morning the swelling still needed to go down, and the pain was very much still there. Walking to the start line there was a few scary twinges, and if I had been honest to anyone about how much it hurt I probably would have been forcibly stopped from running. Common sense nearly won out and I nearly didn’t start the race, but instead I decided to give it a go and see what happens.
The first 13 miles went by without much issue, but almost as soon as it was too late to turn back the painkillers wore off. The next few miles were a struggle, sharp, shooting pains in my foot and I could feel my ankle swelling up in my trainer. I began to regret my decision and could see a long afternoon on my hands.
Whether it was the painkillers or adrenaline I managed to pick it up and save my fastest 10K for the last. I’ve definitely done more damage to my ankle, but it’s all in the name of raising money for charity.
Finally this past Sunday was the Yorkshire Marathon, the third year running for both the event and myself. Last year I set a 3:26 PB on this course, but this year was a completely different story. I decided firstly to make the start of the race as difficult as possible for myself by parking 2 miles away from the start and giving myself just over 20 minutes to negotiate my way there before the race started.
And that was about as good as it got. With the adrenaline still high I started the race too fast and by mile 8 I was spent and had to rely on my experience to get me to the finish line. Between miles 16 and 18 I began feeling massively overwhelmed and started crying. I have no idea exactly what triggered it, but it was the first time it has happened mid-race. Mentally and physically my body is drained at the minute, so it didn’t take much to tip it over the edge. There was cause for celebration when I eventually did cross the finish line, not just because I had completed the 14th marathon of my planned 15 in 2015, but it was also my 25th ever marathon, not bad for 3 years work. Next up, chasing down the big 50 milestone.
With the majority of the 15 in 2015 challenge behind me it’s now time to look at the finish. On the 15th November I will be running the Hell of a Hill marathon as my 15th marathon of the year, before then running the Kirkstall Abbey Trail Ultramarathon and Kirkstall Abbey Trail Marathon on the following Friday and Saturday. There was no more apt way to end the challenge than with my toughest series of races yet, running not just one of the toughest marathons in the country, but by running 3 in a week, including two on consecutive days.
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