It’s May 2011. The day following the Burbage Skyline.
The last thing I remember is talking about the Lake District, strangely enough, with a chap I had never met before. He runs too, loves the trails and fells of the Lakes.
“So what’s you favourite fell race th….”
Then I am in a different room and I feel pressure around my right knee. Definitely going to go to sleep… but wasn’t I just talking to someone? Surreal, it wasn’t in this room. Then as the cobwebs clear, I remember. My knee, operation number two. I start to feel anxious, is it going to be OK? I have no idea, it just feels numb and right know I would love a cup of tea. And to know.
“Is my knee gonna be OK?”
More importantly will I be able to run again. The last time I did it was the September before. Well, until about two minutes from home. The sharpest pain I have ever experienced. Like a knitting needle in and out of the medial side of my knee. The leg collapsed and the pain went immediately. I walk, I shake the leg out and yes I am concerned. I’m walking OK, so let’s just trot up the hill… Oh perhaps not! So that’s what effectively brought me back to the operating theatre and an unfinished discussion with the anaesthetist. I wonder how many unfinished conversations he has experienced?
For the last six months I have doing very little, except walking and strength work on the right leg, all be it somewhat limited. At least I have been able to get out into the hills and have covered a few walking miles and trotted around the edge of the local racing scene with a camera. So it’s not been to bad. But now what?
“It looks like you had a piece of Meniscus break off and was floating around in the joint. Only about the size of half a grain of rice”.
The news is I can run again. However, it is suggested I take my time and make it a very slow comeback. It would also appear that another piece of the meniscus had to be shaved. I am told in no uncertain terms that a third operation will be the end of my running. So OK what do I do? It’s back to Holywell and their top physio, Gary Hill. He knows knees. He also understands my frustration from a lack of real understanding of what all this really means.
“Right, you are going to have to run like a young man again. Time to re-learn running!”
Put simply, I have to take up Natural Running. Now the good news is this is how I used to run, in my younger and quicker days. So it’s back onto my forefoot with a nice soft landing, a nice upright body position and short stride length with plenty of cadence. This is compounded by a left leg that is so much stronger and a right leg with a fair degree of muscle wastage. So this is where the fun starts. Squats, running drills, fast walking, and very little running. My good leg responds immediately. It quickly gains strength and the ability to get up onto my mid foot is quickly achieved. However, not my right leg. It’s quickly sore, effectively overtrained. So I cut back… then things improve.
“Your first run should be 3 x 3 minutes. Concentrate on good form, especially the contact position of your foot under your body”.
I have been coaching this stuff for years and never really worried about me. My form has always been OK. For the first time I am having to work very hard to run with good technique. Progress is made then ‘Twang’… It’s my calf… I recover, then it’s the Gracilis… more drills, more strength work…
And that’s how it is. Three steps forward, two back. Apparently, not unusual. Things are settling down, yet the right leg still has half the strength of the left leg, which has also benefited from all these drills. Today, it is one of the abductor muscles. Yes, strength has again been identified as an issue, but the main cause has been a slip when jumping over a peat bog.
So guess what, it’s drill time! The best news is that I have been told I can now start running power hill reps – these should help and are to be included once a week. Well, they will as soon as I can start running again.
“Bring it on!”