Sunday, 13 February 2011

How I ruined more or less all of my toes

Good news! On Thursday, on a whim, I called my GP's surgery to ask whether my X-ray results were available. I only had the scan on Monday, and everyone had insisted it would take 7-10 days before they would have any news for me, but I thought I'd give them a call on the off-chance and it paid off. The result - 'normal'. One word.

'Does this mean I don't have pleuirsy?' ... 'You have pleuritic symptoms.' Right.

Annoyed at the inefficacy of the health service, whose crowning achievement in treating me was an instruction to take a lot of painkillers and wait until I was better, I did what I always do when I need to let off some steam and do some thinking. I went for a run.

Yeah, yeah, I should have been resting and relaxing and waiting until I got better, but that just doesn't seem to work for me. I took four days off running and whilst the pain in my chest was fairly constant, I was getting grumpy, lethargic and cramp because I wasn't running. So I went for a run. There's still a little pain in my chest, but to be honest, otherwise I feel fantastic.

A short outing on Friday night after work, then a well overdue return to parkrun on Saturday morning. Then another run on Saturday afternoon. And a long run this morning (Sunday). OK, might have overdone it slightly.

There are two main indicators that I ran too much in too short a time this weekend - first, my calves are tight and tough, and second, I've ruined most of my toes. This is because, on a whim, I decided that yesterday's parkrun was going to be my first 'barefoot' race. Barefoot in inverted commas, because I ran in my Vibram FiveFinger shoes, which look like this:

My Vibram FiveFingers, which evoke an interesting range of responses, from fear and distrust to a weird state of near-arousal...
I went for the Vibrams over my normal road shoes because the Sauconys I usually run in are on their last legs - after 551 miles they're ready to be replaced, and there's so little cushioning left in them that I may as well be running barefoot anyway. So I thought I'd use the Vibrams, guarantee myself a new, barefoot PB, and I ended up having a fantastic race.

I ran much of the course on the soft grass verges rather than the tarmac, and apart from the pain of stepping on a few broken sea shells which had washed up on Cramond promenade, I had a great race. Conscious of the dodgy state of my respiratory system, I wasn't gunning for a particular or fast time, but when I glanced at my watch at the 2km mark I was amazed to see it showing just over 8 minutes. Feeling on top of the world, I pushed on and overtook a ton of people, much more aware of the optimum racing line as I was looking for the soft verges to run on. I finished in 20:34, just 5 seconds off my shoe-wearing PB, looking rather like this:

Photo credit (and with apologies to!) Ron Russell. I'm not on the grass because I'm just about to enter the finish 'chute'.
As you can see from the photo, the barefoot experience doesn't seem to be improving my running style - I'm still a heavy heel striker. When I got home and peeled off the Vibrams, I discovered the full horror caused by my indiscipline: two major blisters on the underside of both big toes. I lanced them, then patched my feet up as best I could, but really I was just wildly delighted with the endorphin hit that I've been missing this week.

Since my barefoot parkrun I've run 12 miles in my knackered Sauconys, and the blisters have got much worse, as well as having been joined by new ones on both little toes as well. The worst one, under the big toe of my left foot, has been drained four times already. Meanwhile, the pain in my calves is a bit of a disaster, and there's an interesting complaint coming from my hip. I can barely walk.

I am a runner again.


2011 to date - miles: 136.46, parkruns: 2, races: 0 

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