It probably goes without saying that if you’re planning to run a marathon, it helps to have legs that are at least in some kind of working order.
[Note: This is an archived post from One Small Step, a running blog I kept during my training for the 2012 Virgin London Marathon]
Unfortunately, mine never have been. Not since I was a kid anyway.
A youth spent falling off skateboards and getting the snot kicked out of me in rugby left me with less-than-perfect pins, not to mention a left knee joint that feels as though it’s held together by slowly-setting jelly.
Even long after I gave up sports as a bad idea, the knee never healed and would literally ‘go out from under me without a moment’s notice.’
Often times I wouldn’t even be doing anything particularly strenuous; a casual stroll down the street could suddenly find me screaming like a five year-old girl and cursing like a sailor as I hear that initial pop of the kneecap and topple to the ground like the proverbial sack of spuds.
It hurts like hell, but more it’s the shock of suddenly not having use of both my legs that causes such a over-the-top reaction, and I’ve actually taken to warning anybody I spend any amount of time with that should they suddenly see me fall over and cry out like I just got shot in the balls, not to panic.
‘It’s just my knee.’ I explain, ‘usually it pops back into place as I’m heading floorwards. Just stay calm, help me up and let me lie down for a couple of hours with an ice pack.’
This is usually followed with a grave look and a somber tone in my voice as I add:
‘It’s when the knee locks and *doesn’t* fall back in place that we have a problem.’
When that happens, my options are either to push the thing back in by myself, or have somebody call an ambulance so a paramedic can do it for me. Out of the two, I always prefer the former; the latter usually results in the paramedic needing to cut my jeans open, and I am quite fond of my jeans.
So yeah, my left knee is pretty much ruined, and over the years I’ve learned to reduce some of the pressure on it by over-compensating with my right leg whenever I move around.
This, of course, has led to that leg suffering its own problems. Nothing as serious, just annoying aches which sometimes make even walking a bit uncomfortable, but enough to ensure that whenever somebody asks me how my bad knee is doing, I can joke and ask them which one.
So you can imagine, as December turned to January and my marathon training went up a gear, clocking more and more miles by the day, I wasn’t too concerned by a few aches and pains around the knees.
These are my knees remember? They hurt. That’s what they do.
And so onwards I would plod, day after day, mile after mile. The knees would hurt, I’d stretch them out, rest up with ice and get back out there.
More miles. More pain. More ice. More miles more…ow, that really bloody hurts.
I remember one particularly bad run, or should I say, one run that turned particularly bad.
It should have been a nice easy workout; a couple of slow miles up to the nearest town and back, a warm-up to a longer, much more challenging jaunt later in the week.
Things started well.
Rage Against the Machine were driving me a long with a thick beat and a heavy rhythm, the pain began to slowly sink into my knees and I kept on going, hoping the pain would dissolve much like it had bee doing on the last couple of runs.
It didn’t. Instead it throbbed, it tore up my bones and spat them down my shins in disgust, it ripped into my muscles and scorched the flesh and..
OK, it didn’t…but it did hurt more than my knees have hurt for many years.
Dejected, I limped back home and turned to my old friend Google for some help.
I wasn’t looking to find out what was wrong, partly because I assumed it was simply my knackered old knees having a tantrum, but mostly because I’ve long felt that searching the Internet for a medical diagnosis makes hypochondriacs of us all.
More, I was looking for some advice on what to do to get rid of the pain, or at least make running more comfortable.
Instead, I found something known as ‘Runner’s Knee.’
For the unitiated or simply curious, I’ll leave most of the explanation of Runner’s Knee to this post from Runner’s World (http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/beating-injury/bodyworks-runners-knee/229.html) . To be honest, even though the description matches the sort of pain I was feeling, I was still more convinced that the pain was due to my previous troubles than anything else.
Still, I tried some of the self-healing techniques I’d found online hoping they’d cure whatever the problem was.
Some sites suggested taking a break from running, even for a few days. I knew I couldn’t afford do that.
The London Marathon is getting closer and closer, and despite my training going better than I could have imagined, I’m still a long way off the level I’d like to be at come April 22nd.
I iced, I stretched, I tried everything else, but the running was becoming increasingly intolerable.
There was no choice, it was off to the doctors.
My GP was as useless as ever, and despite my insistence that I couldn’t stop running, told me that really it was the only option I have.
And so it is that, for no longer than a week, the running shoes will remain in doors.
Gutted? Yes, but I have to remember that this is a marathon, I’ll have quite a considerable distance to run, and to do so I’m going to need legs that are at least in some sort of working order.
If that means missing a few training runs, then sadly, that’s what I’ll have to do.