Friends, harriers, supporters, lend me your heels!
Thanks to everyone who sponsored, especially Guthlac and Ecgfrith : but are you real? Or are you those two heroes in one of the Anglo Saxon travel-writing tales I read in my first year at University – you went on a round-the-world trip (well, a round-the-world-as-the-Anglo-Saxons-knew-it-mainly-Denmark-and-Frisia trip) and discovered strange tribes drinking fermented mare’s milk and racing out of the village for the remnant when a man died – the remnant was his widow, if my memory serves (it may not).
Guthlac and Ecfrith, you may be related to my colleague Patrick Fisher, who certainly resembles some kind of Norseman, especially in his pink headband. Be that as it may: you kindly sponsored the TRO team for twenty-five English pounds, whether you are real or merely historical, many thanks to you. And to everyone who has sponsored, helping us raise 102% of our £1500 target. Many thanks to all.
So – race day: what happened?
Put it this way, I was in the Walk In Centre by 7.00am on the Wednesday after the race.
Was it a variation on that mysterious pain in the shoulder blade I’ve had on and off since my dear old friend Angie told me she’d had one, about 17 years ago?
Was it, as the Walk In Doctor with a paperback third volume of Winston Churchill’s autobiography flat down on his desk, said, ‘Oesophagitis’? … ‘The patient may demur,’ he mused, clearly remembering his third year diagnostics course, ‘And insist the pain is muscular…’ I didn’t. I was fascinated and horrified at the thought of stomach acid burning my oesophagus and thus causing a yowling pain under my shoulder blade whenever I turned over in bed. Churchill reading doctor prescribed very expensive stomach-lining pills. But when I told my GP cousin that I had a terrible oesophagal pain in the back only days after completing the 5k she snorted down the phone and said ‘You’ve got a pulled muscle! Put a hot water bottle on it and save those stomach lining pills for when you want to go out and do heavy drinking!’
The hot water bottle worked. I still have the pills and rarely do heavy drinking. Please contact me if you need them.
So – race day: what happened?
Put it this way, it all started going wrong the day before race day when I did my final training run. I had a new route, avoiding the hill (see Director’s Fitness diary no 2), and bringing me back along the beach.
Ah, dear novice 5k attemptees, avoid the beach.
But I didn’t know that then. I have walked on this beach at a moderate pace for 14 years and I have seen people running – I have seen Stan Van Den Berg (are you Guthlac and Ecfrith, Stan? You are a Norseman? Or perhaps Dutch?) running on the beach. So it didn’t even occur to me that my fast-walking-odd-seconds-of-running routine transposed to the beach might be dangerous. But so it turned out.
It was raining. There had been a very high tide. The beach was unpleasantly hard and ridgy. My trousers were sodden and flapping. It was so wet that I began to feel sorry for myself again and gave up counting and stopped to gather photographic evidence of how wetly difficult it all was…
I staggered on, moaning now – what else could I do? I had to get home somehow. And the injury? I didn’t feel anything at the time – which was about 8.00am. But by 8.00pm my Achilles tendon was gently throbbing and I knew I would suffer during the Event.
So – race day: what happened? Lovely day, sunshine, no rain, very gentle breeze: conditions I would imagine as near as perfect as could be. Everyone turned up and we were off! Chris was the only visible chicken and for while I could see his chicken head and shoulders above the mass of runners as they all sped away from me.
But then by 1k it was just me and the road. And a few other people, who seemed to be going very slowly indeed, yet faster than me.
I remembered all the good advice you’d all given me and just set myself to enjoy it, which I did, apart from the very small twinge in the Achilles tendon on my right foot. I met up with the lovely Clare Williams and we enjoyed a fast walk together until first she and then I set off at a gentle jog trot. We stayed together most of the way – not talking, not even in sync but occasionally passing each other and rolling our eyes in desperate greeting. In the first 1k, Damian waved us off on the north face of the Liver Building, and as we entered 3k it was wonderful to see Grace Farrington (here she is dressed as Queen Elizabeth I during our training course at Burton Manor – do ask!)
on the river side of the road waving and smiling – we both stopped for a hug and walked, ran, on.
Now our supporters, fresh from their refreshment (!) really hove into view, Dominic and Phil and Ben and Tina, all cheering us on and using what seemed to me violently exhortatory language. It reminded me of being in labour. You think in advance that you will want supporters, but when they speak to you, from somewhere so very far from your present place of pain, you just want to punch them.
The final k was a blighter. Lungs not working, no air, bollard thighs, the usual problems, plus the tendon was by then actually hurting. I saw Max Alder on the Southside side of the Liver Building (he’s given up smoking and done a marathon! What more could a human being do for health! ) and his waving smiling quite surprising presence really spurred me on – he’d come here, unrelated, no blood between us, to wish me well! Thank you, Max.
On limpily, lumpily I went. In the home straight I started to feel disorientated: like Captain Oates or some other South Pole hero, it had all been too, too much, really, and then my son appeared and ran alongside me.
‘Is it this way?’ I asked him, on the pleasurable edge of giving myself over to be looked after by someone more capable in charge of me (this is what very old age will be like I suppose?) and why he found that funny I do not know. And then the others were all there, all done, all panting, drinking their water and waving and cheering…. and then that was it. ‘She’s smashed her own PB’ I heard one of young men shout (they didn’t realise my previous times were 6K times, so even with a sore tendon, I was likely to…and I let it pass, as I wanted to have smashed my own PB, for by now vainglory and smug self-aggrandisement seemed somehow my right.
‘My heel’s hurting’ I told them (putting a brave face on as if it wasn’t really hurting) was guided gently but patronisingly towards what looked very like ambulance manned by paramedics with stretchers and defibrillators.
‘I’m not going in that!’ I protested. ‘It’s for massage,’ they said, ‘You can have physio.’ But I refused, which was just as well, as we saw the physio/massage tent later, flapping breezily on a lawn, not looking at all like an ambulance.
All the same the physio-lady took one look and refused to massage me, advising sternly ‘Go home and put ice on it.’
Which I did. Fine, no probs, went to bed with a packet of peas and by Monday morning all was well. And all remained well until at 2.00pm on Monday afternoon when the Oesophagitis/pulled muscle came on as I sat at my desk. Chance? Random? Self-inflicted? You decide.
My dear old friend Angie certainly thought there was no chance in it. ‘You can’t just run,’ she said, ‘At your age.’ (We have known each other a very long time).
‘I was mainly walking’ I countered with dignity. I didn’t tell her about smashing my PB.
‘You said in that blog that you’d run!’ she retorted, eyebrow raised. ‘No wonder you’ve got that mysterious pain in your shoulder that I had seventeen years ago.’
What next, I hear you ask. Well, when I was at the baths I saw there’s this thing you can do where you swim the channel – in the baths, over several weeks, but still 23 miles…with goggles. Can’t wait.