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A Runner's Worst Nightmare

Everything was going so well, too well.

After months of training, some challenging runs and a steep learning curve I felt I had finally found my rhythm and was looking good to achieve my target of a sub four-hour marathon.

After a tough penultimate long run, I knew I only had one longer run to do and then it was taper time and a steady build up to the race itself (a relief after months of progressions). I’d been feeling a little tight in my hamstring so spent the night before loosening it off with various treatment aids and mobility techniques and felt like I was on top of it. I’d been focusing on my hydration and nutrition all week too and for once actually felt like I was fully on top of everything. On the morning of the run I woke up and loosened my hip flexors off with a little acupuncture before beginning my usual warm-up.

All felt great and off I set. I was away from home for the weekend but was running a route that I’d previously ran so no real shocks and more importantly not as many hills as I’d normally be running. Things were going great and I was ticking the kilometres off. At 20km in I stopped for 10 seconds to take in a quick sip of water and then kicked on again. But at 24km I started to flag. My times were still good but my legs felt heavy and slow. From previous runs I know that I can feel like this around the 24-25km mark but if I get my head down and keep plodding I find my second wind (I guess some will say “hitting the wall”). So with a quick change in music, I put my head down and powered on.

Then it struck, bang on 25km as I refocused myself for the final 10km stint I felt a sharp, burning pain suddenly grip my left quadricep. Knowing the symptoms I fearfully took another few steps but it felt fine. Instead I was getting pain every 4-5 steps. Thinking it might ease off I reduced my pace and tentatively soldiered on. But it was not to be. The pain started to return every 2-3 steps and then every other step. Knowing that if I pushed on through the pain I could worsen the injury I swallowed my ego and slowly walked the 2km home to immediately begin the recovery process.

With my fingers crossed that it wasn’t as bad as I initially thought, I started to self diagnose and concluded it was a grade 1 quadriceps strain (not great but not the worst it could have been either). Knowing that some of the muscles fibres had been damaged I set to work using the compex machine and applying heat. As the week progressed I completed some low level strength exercises in the gym with no discomfort – fantastic!

The next weekend arrived and mentally I was anxious but physically felt fine. I’d done a few smaller jogs but nothing too strenuous. Completing my regular pre-run ritual I then set about off on what was supposed to be a 29km run but with the understanding that I could scale it back to 25 or 20km if needed. My aim was to get some miles in my legs but without overloading or worsening the injury. To my surprise the first kilometre felt great, so did the second, third and even the fourth. My legs felt loose. I had no pain and my times were improving slightly with each kilometre. And then bang on the 5km it struck again! A sharp pain straight down the front of my left quadricep again. Absolutely gutted I immediately stopped and began a gentle stroll home.

After much reflection my focus is now to continue with my rehab, letting the muscle recover, building up my strength and slowly building my running back up over the next few weeks. I know my fitness is there, I know mentally I can run the marathon, I now need to ensure that my quadricep can too. It’ll be tight but I’m confident I can do it and still come within the 4 hours.

Keep an eye on our social media for my progress over the next few weeks and behind the scenes on my treatment.


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