On the 12th June 2017 I turned forty. The BIG 40…and this was going to be my year. I’d set myself three main goals for my 40th year….1. Run a sub 3:45 marathon (my PB is 3:51)…2. Run a sub 1:45 half marathon (my PB is 1:47)…and 3, lose 2 stone and get back to the weight that I was when I got those PBs. I decided to keep these goals relatively quiet and just chip away through training and entering more half marathons and 5Ks. I’d eaten, drank and celebrated my way through the month of June and it was now time to start taking this running malarkey seriously again! Well…relatively serious…serious but, you know, still in an enjoyable way…
During July and August I slowly and quietly started to get back in form. I’d kinda lost focus during June and maybe a bit before that, but I could feel myself starting to get back on form. I’d lost a couple of lbs, not much, but was definitely moving in the right direction. Come September things were starting to get busier as far as running was concerned. On the 3rd September I ran the “Waterside Half Marathon” in my hometown of Derry (now famous for that hit Channel 4 show “Derry Girls”. If you haven’t seen it yet check it out, it’s hilarious). Not a particularly good run for me (2:04), but that was OK. I was just treating this as a training run and was starting to get in shape for that sub 1:45. I started fine and was feeling strong at the halfway point, but after that I slowed up, started walking and just didn’t have it in my legs. But I knew what I needed to do…focus on the second half, maybe start trying to run the last 4/5 miles of my long runs closer to race pace and build in some hill sessions to increase stamina and power. Also, this was my wife’s first ever half marathon which was so emotional for her and I was so proud and happy that she’d finished that I really wasn’t too bothered about how I’d done.
The next weekend was the Great North Run. I had run this the year before in over 2 hours and thought I might better that this year. I did. 1:58… and that felt like a big improvement from the week before. I still faltered a bit towards the end, but didn’t stop. At the end of this run I felt strong…strong enough to dander down to the beer tent, grab two pints and head back to the finish line to wait for my wife, who was also running this. In light of where this story goes, it might sound like I’m using some creative licence to make this more dramatic and it might sound a bit cheesy; but, as far as running is concerned, the time I spent at the finish line watching runners cross, is amongst my very favourite memories. I saw people break down and cry, hug each other, help each other, and it highlighted to me what running is all about. It highlighted the sense of commitment and achievement, the camaraderie and the emotional rollercoaster that running can be….bloody brilliant! And I started to fall back in love with running all over again.
On the evening of Tuesday 19th September I was training with my running club and, as I was trying to do with every training session, I was putting in “one million percent” (Louis Walsh, X Factor, 2014). I had warmed up, we were well into the session, and in fact I think we had about 5 minutes left to go. We were doing this drill thing that involved star jumps and sprints. I was moving from a star jump into a sprint and it happened. I heard it before I felt it… a noise kind of like a popping, ripping, snapping sound. And then the pain hit. And I hit the ground. And running stopped.
I’m a bit hazy concerning the details after that. I remember trying to get up, and that didn’t work. I thought that maybe if I just stayed down for a while the pain would stop and then I could get back to the car and get some ice on it. I wasn’t too disheartened at the time, in fact there was lots of joking around (see attached photograph). The next thing I knew I was being put into an ambulance and given gas and air (awesome by the way!).
I was taken to hospital in the ambulance (where else I suppose!), but I was still in denial. I was convinced that I had pulled my calf, would be told to take a week or two off, ice it and get back to training. But, unfortunately, that wasn’t the case . I had ruptured my Achilles and would be out for a while. At the time of posting, it’s been somewhere between 4-5 months. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there (slowly) which is why I’ve been able to face this blog again. The hardest part was yet to come, but I’ll get to that another day. For now I think I’ll have a beer…after all, there have to be some upsides to not being able to train!