Six months ago, I was unable to even run a mile due to a knee problem that had been recurrent for over 30 years. For no particular reason, other than fitness, I went for a short run at a local park. Just two laps of a football pitch almost killed me. My lungs couldn’t have taken any more, even at a slow pace. I’ve never had any stamina problems throughout my whole life, and at 58 years-old, I decided I needed to do something about this before my fitness declined even further.
Now, six months on, I have altered my running technique to minimise impact on my joints and invested in my second pair of top quality running shoes. Yesterday, for the first time ever, I managed an unofficial half-marathon. The roughly four and a half laps of a circuit in Newport that I call The River Run, 13.1 miles (approx 21km) in total, was an enlightening experience. At first, I was just hoping that I would manage to complete it. This kind of distance, for me, is uncharted territory.
My favourite Brooks running shoes.
Only seven weeks after that very first lung-crushing experience six months ago, I managed a 10-mile run – my ability to build up stamina shone through and didn’t let me down. But my enthusiasm became my downfall as my body had other ideas. This 10-mile run caused a significant injury to my right hip. It would be another two months before I’d be able to run seriously again. Even when I did manage it, I had to keep a check on my knee problem, as well as my hip.
I’ve discovered, through experimentation, that just turning my right foot inwards slightly while running has relieved the pain in my knee. Nonetheless, my joints still aren’t able to take the pounding of a “full-on” hard run just yet, so for yesterday’s half-marathon I adopted a walk/run strategy. I’ve had troubles with both hips, but they are much stronger now. I do much of my training in the gym at Bannatyne’s Health Club. I can work on my stamina on the rowing machines or exercise bikes without any joint-damaging impact. I shift weights to strengthen my body. All this cross-training is almost as good as actually running in terms of the end result. During my hip injury, for two months I trained in the gym using non-impact equipment. I came out the other side fitter and stronger.
Just recently, I managed to secure a place in the London Marathon on 28th April 2019, representing The Brain and Spine Foundation team. It will be ten years to the month that I’d suffered a brain haemorrhage. What a way to celebrate it! I don’t care how long it takes me. I just want to complete it. If I weren’t plagued with injuries I’d be looking to complete in four hours. But I have to be realistic and accept that this is no longer feasible. However, managing a half marathon before we even reach Christmas has set me up well in my preparations. Most people haven’t even started training yet. I have time to sit back and let my aches and pains heal before getting back in the gym to strengthen further and then get out and increase my running distance and speed. Six months ago, I would have considered all of this impossible.
Me in April 2009 shortly after waking from a coma. Inset: Training for London Marathon April 2019.
Yesterday’s 13.1 mile journey was harder than I’d expected. I battled with cramp, a blister on my foot, and almost had to stop just before the end as the muscles in my legs seemed to almost completely knot up. My stamina held up very well though, and I completed it in 2 hours and 45 minutes. Yesterday was an endurance that made me realise that I still have work to do, but that it is all very much within my grasp. Yesterday (12th December) was also the first anniversary of my mother passing away. Maybe she helped me along. Maybe she’ll be there for me on the big day in April.
By running in the London Marathon 2019, I aim to raise a hefty sum of money for The Brain and Spine Foundation. They do great work for people who have been less fortunate than me. If you’d like to sponsor me, please visit my JustGiving page here: