Monday, 12 December 2011


It is a blog cliché to start a long-overdue post with an apology for not posting more often, but here it is: I’m sorry. Thing is, this is a blog about running and runners, and recently I have done much of the former or felt like one of the latter.

Almost two months ago I headed out for an easy five-miler along the river, when, as so often happens in such circumstances, I ran into trouble exactly halfway through the run and, consequently, when I was as far away from home as I could possibly be. A deep, dull ache gripped around my mid-section like a vice and tightened, making every step agonising. It was as if I was wearing a cummerbund of misery and pain and gross inconvenience. I paused a moment, almost winded by the shock of the pain, and decided to walk instead. But walking was even more painful, so, with great effort, I forced myself into a pitiful, laborious trot and headed for home.

The pain lasted for days. I’ve run two marathons this year and barefoot half marathon – I know a thing or two about pain – but this was by far the worst. I ached when I walked, stairs were agony and I could barely put on a pair of socks without wincing. This was torture. I live an active lifestyle: I walk to work most days, two miles each way, and am used to putting in anything from 15 to 50 miles a week running, as well as some time on the bike, too. I am rarely still. I fidget and pace and meander. I’d sooner walk than get a bus and rather sprint than miss a train. But this new injury put paid to all of that, or rather, made all of that hurt like hell. I even stopped walking to work - the discomfort made me nauseous.

Since then the pain has never been far away. Every run has been the same; starting well but deteriorating rapidly, the dull ache growing until I couldn’t take it anymore and ran for home as fast as my confused legs could carry me. My GP had no answers but plenty of scary words, like hernia, appendicitis and ‘surgical consult’. The fact that my injury only kicks in during a run seemed to annoy her – she suggested that I run until it hurts then present myself at A&E. An absurd notion. My physio decided that my back was to blame and spent an hour systematically demolishing it, to no noticeable effect. I’m still waiting for that surgical consult, by the way.

So I’ve been running horrendous, pathetic miles. 10 miles a week. Then seven. Then five. Last week just two; the kind of miles that I am ashamed to put in my training diary. The kind of miles that make me embarrassed to look at this blog.

He looks happy.
And so we reach identity. What is a runner? To me the only criteria have always been that you run because you love it, because you know what it means to have adrenalin surging through your veins as you haul yourself uphill into driving rain, because you have no shame in beaming and whooping and laughing as you hurtle down a snowy hill, because you get to the end of a long run beaten, battered and broken and triumphantly glowing with the sense of accomplishment you deserve.

I haven’t felt any of those things for weeks.

If you’re fit and well, then please, for goodness sake, go for a run this week. Somebody should.

Jog on


2011 to date: miles: 1077, parkruns: 6, races: 6, miles biked: 159, metres swum: 1225