Learning to run
I love running but for the past few years it hasn’t loved me back. I’ve had recurring shin splints that stop me getting much past the 8-mile mark. I’ve read books, I’ve scoured websites, I’ve iced and I’ve rested.
Then a couple of months ago, I was inspired by a running friend who said I just needed to enter a race and then give myself no excuses. So that’s exactly what I did. In September 2011, I will run 56 miles from London to Brighton, armed with a map, a compass and enough jelly beans to topple a milk float. In for a penny.
The first thing I had to do was take some drastic action to fix the shin splints. Recurring injuries like this are usually the result of poor running form, so I went to The Running School to see what was wrong. (Here’s the post I wrote at the time).
Since then I’ve had 7 coaching sessions and I’ve gone from running like a startled warthog in heavy boots to running like something vaguely humanoid.
My coach was the wonderful Verity. I’m a pain in the arse to teach – I must know why everything, why, why, why like a 5 year old – but she was patient and happy to explain everything we were doing so I could practice between sessions.
She sorted out my leg cycle so I was picking up my heels properly and not over striding. She got my arms moving and my core stable. She helped me build a Beyonce-style powerhouse of a bum so my quads could stop over compensating.
When you run correctly it’s like someone’s switched a light on. It’s hard work at first – the dormant muscles you should have been using suddenly have work to do – but it’s no longer painful. At one point I was almost sprinting on the treadmill, after months of going slowly for fear of pain. I was so excited I thought I might actually take off.
There were down moments too: I had to take some time off because the shins got worse before they got better. But the whole time The Running School were brilliant – helping me design a training plan, giving me physio and rehabilitation exercises, reassuring me when I felt like I might have bitten off slightly more than I can chew with a 56 mile race when the furthest I’ve ever run in one go is about 12 miles.
I am still learning. I’ve learned to listen to my body and correct my form accordingly. Fortunately I seem to have leg muscles like a coach load of grumbling pensioners so I always know when something’s amiss.
I’ll go back a few more times to see Verity to make sure I’ve not adopted any bad habits and to bother her with questions.
I’m not scared of the race yet. 56 miles is just an abstract concept while I’m tentatively sticking under 10 miles to get used to the new form. No, I’m scared of not making it through the training, of having to drop out before race day because of injury.
Going public here means that, whatever the setback, I have to keep going. I will do it. Even if I break a leg or something, I’ll just do the next one. I’ve decided.
Ps I promise this won’t become a running blog. There will be new adventures every week as normal. Next week, for example, I’ll be dangling from a ceiling in Battersea with The Flying Fantastic, significantly increasing the chances of the aforementioned broken leg.