On the 9th July 2018 I tore my hamstring playing a game of rounders at school. At first I was devastated, I cried, I panicked and I thought all of my hard work had gone to waste. Now? Well I am not saying I want to get injured again, especially not anything more serious, but in a strange way, I am actually glad this has happened.
There is no getting away from it, this year has been hard work. My 16 week plan for the London Marathon started on New Years Day, and its been pretty much non stop since. After London I had a week off, and then went straight back into racing, completing three 10k races in the space of a month (and beating my PB at each one!) there were local 5k races and then before I knew it my training plan for Berlin had begun! I won’t lie, the effects of marathon training kicked in a lot quicker the second time round, although my runs were going well, I was constantly feeling tired. My sleep wasn’t great and I just felt like I was always on the go, but I kept pushing on because I wanted to give my plan everything!
Anyway, back to #hamstringgate – so yep, everything was going pretty well, and then before I knew it, I was going from 18 mile training runs, to struggling to walk and sit down without pain. Luckily I managed to see a physio the day it happened – he assessed my leg and we did everything we could – ice, heat, massage, and then I was told the words that NO runner ever wants to hear – ‘You’re going to have to take a week off running’. I won’t lie, this set me off and I cried. I cried because I had been working so hard. I cried because I set myself a huge goal for Berlin and I just saw it slipping away. I cried because I was so angry that I got an injury from playing a game of rounders! To be honest, I just felt shit.
Over the next couple of days the pain did ease, but I behaved myself and didn’t run. Instead, I made friends with the watt bike! I got some seriously sweaty sessions in, and actually started to enjoy it, and it didn’t cause me any pain at all. After about a week, my coach said I was allowed to do a test run. I was so excited and part of me was thinking that everything was going to be fine and I would be back to running normally again. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case! As soon as I started running my hamstring just ached, I have been running for long enough & know when something isn’t right, so I stopped and just accepted my leg wasn’t ready to go again!
I kept Lloyd (my coach) updated constantly with how my leg was feeling and he was absolutely fantastic at adjusting my sessions and trying to keep me calm. But then, there came another blow. When you are cycling, you predominately are working your quads and hamstrings. So although I wasn’t feeling any pain when I was cycling, Lloyd advised that it could be halting the healing process as I wasn’t giving it enough rest. Once again, I felt devastated. Cycling kept me going, I was still getting my heart rate up, I was working my legs, and it didn’t feel like I was losing that much fitness. But that was it – no cycling, no running, and I couldn’t even swim as that pulled on my hamstring too! So the last resort? Aqua Jogging! Click here to watch some great tips from GB athlete Eilish McColgan.
I was willing to give anything a go, so as soon as I could I ordered my Aqua Belt from Amazon and then got myself down to the pool! If you have never Aqua Jogged before – then let me tell you, it’s bloody hard work! I only did a handful of sessions, but it really helped me mentally as I felt like I was still getting a good work out, and technically I was running – just having to work a hell of a lot harder & not putting any pressure on my legs!
During my time off running, I also went to the gym a lot to do my strength training. I avoided doing any lower body for the first couple of weeks, but instead focused on my upper body, core, and then spent a lot of time with my resistance band (post will be coming soon, I promise!)
Once again, I was given the green light to run again. I was buzzing, I had been really sensible, done everything I was told to do, so I was certain the run would go well. Did it? Nope! As soon as I started I felt pain in my hamstring, I lasted a mile before I decided to call it day and not make it any worse. I was gutted. Berlin was 7 weeks away, and I couldn’t even run a mile. So it was back to square one, another week of absolutely no running, instead I was a slave to the pool & the gym!
If you read my last blog post, I gave an open and honest account about whats been happening with my body over the last 15 months, and how finally it was starting to work normally again, and one thing I put this down to was how my training had reduced over the month, but also that I was getting a lot more sleep. There is a lot to be said for sleep. You can spend all the money in the world on expensive recovery treatments or the newest ‘must have’ product, but really the best thing we can do for our bodies sometimes is something we have been able to do since we were babies – get some shut eye! I do honestly believe this has also made a huge difference to my recovery, alongside being off work, I have just felt so much more relaxed & chilled out!
Soon enough, it was time to test out my leg with a run. This time I wasn’t excited, I was nervous. What if it still hurt? What if it hadn’t got any better? What if I had forgotten how to run?! I had a million things running through my head when I laced up my trainers and got out there, but finally – I WAS RUNNING PAIN FREE! There was no aching, no pulling – I was over the moon! But we weren’t completely out of the woods yet – rather than going back in 100%, we took it a day at a time. One day running, one day aqua jogging and so on, it was a tad frustrating, but I was just so happy to be back running!
Earlier on in my training block, I had booked a half marathon which I was using as a benchmark to see where I was with my training, I had done the same on the lead up to London and it worked really well as a massive confidence boost. The race was fast approaching, but it was only days after I had started to run pain free again. I was really stuck with what to do. I thought about not doing it, but I had already missed so many races & key training sessions I really didn’t want to miss anymore, so I decided to just use it as a way to get some miles in. Completely take the pressure off and just see if I could run 13.1 miles pain free. On the morning of the race I woke up feeling strangely confident, I usually suffer with really bad pre race nerves & anxiety, but this time couldn’t have felt more different. I had no expectations, no aim to push for a PB, I just wanted to run! I decided that as I had nothing to lose, if I went out at my ‘race pace’ and felt good, I would continue and see what I could do. I had nothing to prove and I made a promise to myself that if I had to slow down, I wouldn’t be disappointed. To get straight to it – the race couldn’t have gone better! I felt strong & in control the entire time, and I finished in 1.26.31, which was only 3 seconds off my PB! I couldn’t believe it, during my time off running I had convinced myself I had lost a lot of endurance & cardio fitness, but yet I just managed to almost match my PB time!
The race, alongside my returning period, has given me a massive wake up call. If I am being completely honest with myself, before my injury I think I was at the risk of over training. I wasn’t listening to my body, I was getting up early to fit sessions in, working all day, training again in the evenings and some nights not even sitting down till gone 9pm, and it was starting to take its toll. I definitely used to underestimate the power of rest, and now that I am going to be back to training normally, I am going to make sure that it is a priority. There is now just under 5 weeks until Berlin Marathon. There is nothing I can do about the last 5 weeks, except to take on board what I have learnt and use it. I will train hard, and I will give it my everything, BUT I am also going to listen to my body. So if it means missing an early morning gym session for an extra hour in bed, then so be it.
I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, and although it wasn’t ideal, I honestly do think this injury was a sign for me to take a step back, give my body a break and to learn (the hard way) that I am only human & not a machine. And it has also proved that by cross training, eating right (well, most of the time!) and taking the pressure off can do wonders for your running and racing.
So there we have it, I hope this is proof that you can come out the other side of an injury with a smile on your face! Just make sure you listen to your coach, or any professional advice you seek out, and most importantly, to your body – because it knows you better than anyone!