The first two weeks of my marathon training began so well that nothing could have prepared me for the setback that was to come. Week three began fairly mundanely with a five-mile run home, before picking up on Tuesday with another interval session – similar to last’s week’s threshold/recovery jog session, except now with 3 minute thresholds instead of 2, still with 12 minutes easy either side of the intervals. I clocked 7.21 miles in 54 minutes and with a good average pace. So far, so good. Things had ended well last week and they were continuing in a positive vein.
Suddenly, it felt awkward walking up and down stairs. Whether I’d not stretched well enough, or simply gone too hard in the speedwork session, my left heel was feeling a little sore. I got onto researching it and soon I was learning all about achilles tendonitis, scar tissue, nodules and all. The blurb said at worst I was looking at a six-to-eight week lay off if I didn’t get it sorted. Well it wasn’t that sore, nor did it seem it, but it was bothersome, and I was thankful for the rest day on Wednesday to try and consider what to do next.
I spent the night before doing the RICE method (that’s Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, non-runners), and the following morning I was wrapping a support around my heel and later doing massages onto it to try and break down the probable scar tissue. But by the end of Wednesday I still wasn’t too sure – even though I was less sore – and as a result I decided to miss out Thursday’s run (just as well because the weather was vile). Instead I took my new compression socks to work and for the first time decided to get those things pulled up my calves and just sit there. I swear I could feel the odd pulse in my leg which felt weird, but they seemed comfortable and for a while I don’t think I could feel my achilles. I began to think about Saturday and whether I should resolve to try out a run to see how it felt.
I felt I should give it a go on Saturday, but was I going to make it worse? The only time I’d ever had an Achilles injury was when I was 10 when I leapt off the top of a gate at junior school – and that was worse because that one really had me hobbling. This was really nothing more than a comparative irritation – or so I thought – but my usual bull-headed approach to overcoming injury seemed to have deserted me and so I wound up putting back Saturday’s run to the afternoon, where depending on my temperament I would either go for the road, or the treadmill. In the end, the wintery weather conspired to make the roads slippery, so I opted to go down to the gym as the least risky strategy. I managed the full 40 minutes on the treadmill, covering 8.9km and averaging 7:14 mile pace. I felt reasonably OK but about halfway through, I could sense a murmur in my achilles and despite stretching well afterwards, I was to be resigned to the realisation this injury hasn’t gone away and that is going to impact on my training more than I would like it to.
And so the 10-miler on Sunday, which I previously viewed as critical in my build-up to the Liversedge Half Marathon in four weeks, was cancelled. I did get a monster amount of sleep, but it was strange not to have gone out on Sunday as a result of something I was forced to accept, rather than it being purely of my own choice. This is begrudgingly the way my training has to go right now, the focus being on recovery, reduced mileage and ideally not exacerbating the injury.
Next week was scheduled to be an easier week with no intervals and just lots of 30-40 minute sessions at an easy pace. I doubt I’ll be attempting all of those, even if I go for one or two, I’ll have to take extra precautions. I can see myself investing in a foam roller and hopefully I’ll have the chance to get down to the local pool thanks to some kinder work shifts, which will allow me to maintain my fitness and hopefully allow my recovery to progress accordingly.
I’m grateful this hasn’t come along a few weeks from the marathon and instead it’s happened early into the plan – I can now at least reassess how I’d like my training plan to go and to make necessary adjustments. Until then, I can expect to approach the next week with hopefully as much discipline as I have the rest of my training and indeed with that the marathon will require, with plenty rest, ice, compression, elevation, and indeed massage, stretching and compression socks. And Mr. Achilles, I will do my best to look after you, but ruin my marathon hopes, and I will kill you!