In 2014 I discovered running and let me tell you this: if you don’t run, you need to. In running I have come to fully understand addiction, the seriousness of which puts my chronic nail-biting and anxiety to shame. Running gets me like nothing else.
I started running the way I start most things: out of jealously. A colleague in school used to regale with me details of his weekends running and I couldn’t help but wonder if I was right in thinking that what he described couldn’t be that hard. I don’t know quite how I managed it on my measly salary but I bought a black pair of running shoes and began to go out in the evenings after work.
Nobody would have described me as a sedentary person to begin with but in running I found something that I hadn’t realised had been missing from other activities I’d engaged in – a sense of improvement. Not only was this easy to measure through stats but it was also, a bonus, easy to control. Train smarter, improve. Eat right, improve. Sleep well, improve. Push yourself on those early weekend runs. Go up the terrifyingly steep hill and then go down again just to go back up.
For months the running formula was the easiest, most uncomplicated feature of my expatriate life. Let’s not forget the other big plus – it was free.
To say I unearthed a world within myself is the greatest understatement I could make about those first couple of months. I reassessed my social circle and found the confidence to make health conscious decisions (this is when I started on the alcohol free journey that still continues) without excessive fear of missing out. My work/life balance snapped itself perfectly into line and there was nothing that would have me sacrificing my training.
I am this obsessive in all areas of life but rarely as passionate.
I’ll never forget the time I just kept running – way beyond the marker I usually stopped at, high above Barcelona as it slept – on the glorious passeig de les aigues. When I had run my way back to the city centre I sat down on a bench and out of curiosity wondered had I run past 15km. I had. Under what felt like no duress I had completed close to 22km and well under the two hour mark. I decided to sign up for the half-marathon.
Of course what should come next in the story is that I ran the marathon. On the weekend that I told myself I would sign up for it, I ran a 30km and the next day the twinges I had felt in my knee had made their full force felt. It was nothing compared to the agony later that same year when I ended up on crutches having run my fastest ever 10km with Nike.
I took months off. My first recovery run in June 2015 was a single kilometre and I marvelled at how I had once so easily run 29 more of them. The sensation and memory reduced me to tears as I neared the gate of my house.
In Switzerland I got myself back up and running (literally), in England I encountered some stress issues but nevertheless prevailed and back in Spain I ran early mornings before school eventually bringing myself back up towards the 20km mark again with ease. No knee pain whatsoever, only ambition. Adding in weight and resistance training, I felt I was attacking running by being on the successful defence against the curse of runners knee.
So it was in Italy that I began in earnest to train again for the marathon. In the depths of winter I dragged myself out of the apartment in the rain, the sludge and even light snowfall with the ultimate goal fixed in mind. Much like in Barcelona, little distracted me from my training. I had much less social life to give up but more stress to contend with. Running once more became an outlet in which I could easily measure and feel proud of my success.
This time I had even paid for my marathon entry. I ran circles around the city where I lived every weekend, topping out at 31km in well under three hours. The goal of a first marathon under four hours was within reach when what you might have guessed happened, happened.
I left for a routine run on a Saturday morning and came back walking twenty minutes later. Knee pain – straight out of nowhere – had hit again. With the marathon less than two weeks away I knew it would have been madness to run through the pain and, as the next few days would make perfectly clear, impossible to see myself at the starting line of the event.
For the next couple of months I switched my exercise regime. I cycled, went to the gym and swam every day over the summer holidays in the crystalline waters of southern Corsica. I ran a couple of times over the summer and never felt even the memory of knee pain which really makes me wonder if the pain is less physical and more psychological; a kind of marathon performance stage fright?
This morning I ran a very meagre 4km but in a decent time having not run since September. The Irish wind threatened to cut me in two, the lack of gloves was a rookie error that I will never make again and I hadn’t realised that running that early in a village means that every driver or passenger feels entitled to crane their necks to see who it is and from which family they are that has taken on such a bizarre morning pastime.
Nevertheless, 4km later and I am dedicating a part of my blog to my running journey. While my boyfriend and I spend these weeks or months apart I will use the time to train like I know I can and hopefully, hopefully third time around I’ll finish my first marathon.
Have you ever run a marathon or been injured in the process? Let me know how it was and what you did to recover! I’d love to hear it 🙂