Monday, 27 July 2009

The Stockholm Marathon and me, part 1

Woke today with aching limbs! Not a surprise really, as it had been some time since my last run and even though it was a ‘gentle’ one, it still took quite an effort! It normally takes me a week or two to get up to speed – I’m expecting to be running around 5-6 miles at around 8’30-9’00” pace in a couple of weeks…we’ll see.

I am always conscious of how my legs are feeling, and no longer do the 10 miles a day I might have done a few years ago. Five years ago I was running in the Stockholm Marathon. I had enjoyed it the first time in 2003, but had returned hoping to improve my time. It’s a beautiful city and, although it was a little too hot for marathon running, I was enjoying the sights and the atmosphere. I was gearing up for the final three miles – the end practically in sight – when I heard an enormous crack. I didn’t associate it with myself, but when I next put down my right leg I noticed that it was a strange shape. Then, as my weight came to bear on it, my leg collapsed from under me. I was very confused. There was no pain, but it looked like my knee had ‘popped out’. I tried to get up, but quickly realised that the leg wasn’t going to support me, and I crashed face-first onto the tarmac. I had broken my femur, the longest, thickest and strongest bone in the human body!

A young man who had been watching from the side of the road immediately rushed forward. He was Swedish, in his mid 20’s, and as soon as he saw me he got on his mobile phone for an ambulance. They arrived very quickly. By now I was pretty much aware of what had happened, as I had broken my arm a few years previously, and I could feel the pain coming. I was still facedown on the tarmac, not wanting to move, but the ambulance men said that they had to move me so they could administer morphine and get me into the ambulance. I was swearing and, being English and polite, apologising for swearing! The pain became unbearable, despite the morphine. I was loaded into the back of the ambulance and driven quickly off to the hospital. I remember that they had taken my running shoe off and asking if they still had it.

The next thing I remember was being in the Emergency department, being examined by a lady doctor. I began to shake uncontrollably as the shock began to set in. I could see on a heart monitor that my heart rate was over 200, which is pretty much off the scale for a man my age – my resting heart rate at that time, because I was very fit, was around 40 beats per minute. More drugs, and I eventually found myself in bed in a room, by myself and still wearing my running clothes (minus the shoes!). Bear in mind that I had just run 23 miles in hot weather in these clothes, they would not have won any ‘fresh aroma’ awards! The one small benefit was that the morphine had relaxed my muscles, so I didn’t feel any of the stiffness and soreness from the run!

I was scheduled for a operation that night and the surgeon came to ask me if I wanted it with a local or general anaesthetic. The local was better, he said as there were fewer risks. However, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be awake for the operation. He said I could change my mind later. As it happened, I couldn’t have the operation that day (this was now Saturday evening), and had to wait until the following day. That meant no food or anything to drink until the operation, although I was on a drip for fluids. I had a tearful night, thinking that I might never run again and how could it have happened. No-one knew, but my speculation was that I had had a stress fracture which had held together most of the way, but then gave way somewhat catastrophically.

At midnight on Sunday they took me to the operating theatre. I was sure that I had asked for the general, but they asked me to lean forward on the operating table so they could give me the local anaesthetic injection in the spine. This would ‘put my legs to sleep’.
Part two continues tomorrow...

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