I’d been debating where to run, having grown a little bored of my normal route. The park is lovely, but it helps motivation sometimes to vary the route and set new challenges, so this morning I decided I would run through the first half of the park and then continue out on the long climb up past the University to Southampton Common. The Common is a very large wooded area with many winding paths ideal for running along – some up, some down, in lovely, peaceful surroundings.
The first part through the park was uneventful. I did feel that my pace was good, breathing was fine, and my heart seemed happy with the demands I was placing on it. I didn’t want to overcook things in this first mile or so, as I knew I would have to save my energy for the big hill ahead. Leaving the park, the uphill climb starts straightaway, with a particularly sharp rise up over the road and railway bridge, followed by a more gentle stretch, and finally the monster hill up all the way to the Common. The hill is about 1.5 miles in total, and quite steep in places. Hills don’t really trouble me – I spent my formative running years climbing the hills of Sheffield and the Peak District, and this one is fairly tame in comparison. Thankfully, although this is a main road, there is little traffic today – no rush hour as today is a holiday for the majority of workers.
I feel surprisingly good up the hill, and reach the Common breathing hard, but coping well, and in the knowledge that the majority of the remainder of the route is flat or downhill. I’ve done my climb, and now I reap the benefits of gravity as I pass other runners going in the opposite direction, up the hill. Running downhill can sometimes be as tricky and difficult as running uphill. There’s less strain on heart and lungs, but the impact of each footfall is greater – equivalent to about three times bodyweight. I’m conscious of the shock on my muscles and bones, particularly in light of my broken femur experience!
I make it through the Common and start heading back home down a smart residential street. As I am about halfway down I feel a twinge in my right calf, then again a few steps later. Then…bang! I feel something tear! I have to instantly stop and try to determine the severity of the injury. It’s quite painful, and feels muscular, rather than a tendon. There’s a bus stop close by, so I hobble to that and sit down on one of the wet plastic seats to assess the situation. Looking at my GPS, I see that I have run 4.6 miles, which means I am approximately 1.5 miles from home. It reminds me that, in future, I must remember to carry some money with me for this type of eventuality, so I can at least catch a bus home. However, that thought is of no help to me now, and I have no choice but to hobble along, trying to be as gentle as possible and hoping that the pain will ease sufficiently to allow me to at least jog slowly home.
I walk for about ten minutes – better to keep moving, as I have to get home somehow, and after stopping, although I was very hot, I am now beginning to feel a little chillier. Still no sign of the promised sunshine! The pain seems to have eased, so I decide to try a little jog….but within two steps the pain is back and I know it is impossible. So, I hobbled and limped the remainder of the route, cursing the muscle and feeling enormously frustrated that it should happen when I was doing so well. Unfortunately, since I broke my leg 5 years ago, this sort of injury does happen more frequently. The injury and subsequent surgery and mending of the broken bone have altered the mechanics of my leg ever so slightly, so that walking and running is now subtly different from the preceding 45 years of my life. As a consequence, there are altered stresses on the muscles and sinews. I’m probably still also guilty of ‘favouring’ the leg due to the deeply ingrained memory of the time it collapsed so catastrophically.
Unfortunately that looks like no more training this week, which is a setback but not necessarily a total disaster – I still have several weeks to go, and know that my fitness levels are good. I measured my resting heart rate last night and it is now down to around 45 bpm. A couple of months ago it was more like 60 bpm, and around 80 bpm this time last year. So, I have that ‘in the bag’ and will have to hope that it doesn’t decline whilst I have my enforced rest from activity. I’m hoping that it will only be a few days. One other interesting observation about today’s run was that my blood glucose level declined from 8.9 to 3.6, which is technically hypoglycaemia. I felt OK, and had a biscuit and a couple of Jelly Babies to bring the level up. I don’t think it would have dropped so low had I been able to run all the way, as I would have got home much sooner.
Monday August 31st, 2009
4.6 miles + 1.5 miles
46’20” + 35’
Blood glucose before (1.5 hour)
Blood glucose after