The pain of running in pain is more than just physical #ukrunchat #injury #pain

It’s hard to believe that it’s now more than 2 years since I last ran pain free and let me assure you it’s not an anniversary I want to celebrate. 

I remember it all started in March 2014, I had some nasty glute pain at the St Peters Way Ultra – one of my absolute favourite races – but it had taken second place that day to the chest infection I had. I could feel my glutes tightening as I ran and I remember saying to Mike Sokolow and Ian Shelley ‘you guys go on ahead, I’ll see you at the end’. I figured it was a something and nothing and after a few days it would calm down and never worry me again. Sadly it would worry me again and give me many sleepless nights.

I’d sadly not taken much rest post St Peters Way and had kicked on to complete four ultra distances inside 40 days (a 30, 45, 50 and 100 mile events). I was in a bit of a mess after this and missed both the Race to the Stones and the NDW100 – I found myself at the lowest ebb. 

Changing my physiotherapist helped and despite her repeated warnings, she enabled me to get roadworthy to face my final challenges of 2014 – Fowlmead and the Winter 100 – which I spectacularly DNF’d just a few weeks after the birth of UltraBaby. A disaster all of my own making.

Under pretty strict advice from my physio I finally stopped running, I deferred my Country to Capital place and I sat about doing not much for four months other than a bit of cycle commuting, eating cake and being miserable.

With a lot of hard work though I managed to return to running but it’s never been right and all the confidence I used to have as I approached races has now gone – I never know if I’ll get out of the blocks never mind get to the finish or I sit on start lines wondering whether I’ll blow up in spectacular fashion usually at the farthest, most inaccessible point from home.

I now start at the back of races, whereas before I used to start nearer the front and push forward – I used to run good times, in a reverse of the Tobias Mews phrase I’ve gone from ‘competer to completer’. I can’t express in words how shitty a feeling that is.

Despite the (sometimes excruciating) pain I run with I’ve managed a few decent efforts including the Green Man, the Saintelyon and the Thames Path 100 – nothing very quick because prolonged speedier racing narrows my window of running time available – but respectable enough – I just want more.

What I do know is it’s coming to a head and I’m going to need to get seen to, regardless of the implications. The pain I’ve been suffering with has increased in recent months and is putting me increasingly off training and ultimately racing (though I will be entering the Haria Extreme 100km later today).

Last night, is the perfect example, as I was running a moderately quick 5km all I could feel was the pain of my glutes and the hamstring burning – it was a depressingly familiar feeling. It was especially galling as I should have been enjoying my first proper shakedown of the Altra Instinct – a fine shoe by the way if initial running is anything to go by.

I look at runners in London, enviously imagining that they don’t get injured and that the pain they feel is simply from the burn of effort rather than the burn of injury. I don’t want to come across as self pitying as I realise it’s all my own fault and remains so as I’m lethargic and worried about seeing the doctor. 

I just wish I could have my time over and not push so hard during those early months of ultra running or have stopped when I knew something wasn’t right. Perhaps this is the reason I continue to push myself now because I’m concerned I won’t be able/allowed to ultra run any more and so I’m fitting in races now so when the time comes I just accept my fate.

If you take anything from this then please try and remember to curb your enthusiasm – just a touch – for the sake of a long, successful and colourful running career. It remains my biggest running regret and I would hate for you to share it with me.

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10 comments
  1. IAmKat said:

    I really hope you can get things sorted and either irradicate or minimise the pain you’re suffering. It sucks to be on the injury bench, but more so I think if you don’t really feel injured.
    Reading this reinforces the fact that the Boyf and I made the right decision to go back to bed when the 4:15am race alarm went off this morning. Sometimes you really do have to listen to your body, and balance a rest day over clocking up the numbers. Especially when you still have 2 quarter marathons, a 60km and at least 3 marathons planned in for the rest of the month.

    Out of interest, do you do yoga? I find when I am doing it I feel much better, skip a few weeks and I really notice the tightness build up again.

    • ultraboycreates said:

      I tend to prefer Pilates over Yoga but I know what you’re getting at, I do a lot of stretching to keep myself roadworthy but they don’t aid the injuries which are pretty deep seated – i think it will require surgical or at least medical intervention to fix me but it is putting me off running now.

      Good to hear you chaps are easing off when you need to, especially with the hundred just around the corner.

      If it helps make you feel any better I’ve got an 81 mile run followed 5 days later by a 74 mile self navigation race in a weeks time and even I’m shitting myself wondering what I’ve signed up for 😀

      • IAmKat said:

        Yeah, you’re still crazier than us! Hope you manage to get through them without being in constant agony!

  2. Just go and get yourself seen to. I spent a very long time running injured, and some days it didn’t hurt at all (NDW50), and others it forced me to stop (CCER). It took 18 months from first injuring myself to the knee surgery that I needed to fix the problem, and now I am running so much stronger than I ever have done before! It would have been fixed in 6 months if I’d just gone to the doctor sooner.

    • ultraboycreates said:

      Did you stop running during the whole 18 months and did you have a sympathetic and understanding doctor? The couple of niggles I’ve gone to the doctor for have been met with ‘you run hundred mile distances… in one go? I think that might be at the root of the problem’

      Don’t get me wrong I’m keen to get fixed but already being committed to this years races means I want to do them. I suppose having already DNS’d TransGrancanaria feeling it would ruin the rest of the year because it would aggravate the injuries I’m not keen to miss out on my remaining runs.

      However, I suppose I could start the ball rolling as the wait list is probably reasonably extensive…

      Good to hear you’ve come back stronger though – that gives me a modicum of hope for my running future

      • No, I did the damage in an XC race in February. I pushed on with training and did the NDW50 in May – one of the only days I ran pain free (must have been endorphins.) From there on it just went downhill. I had severe pain in my quad whilst running in Chamonix in June as it gave up the ghost. This is when I first went to the doctor who basically prescribed rest. I did rest, and then tried to run 100 miles in October. I managed 7 miles of Caesars Camp before the pain set in, but ran/walked 30 miles before throwing in the towel. From there I just procrastinated and it was probably February of 2014 before I went to the doctor again who said it was strange that I was still having issues so he referred me to the consultant. All in all this took a long time – first to meet the consultant, then to wait for xray/scan date, then waiting for feedback, then onto a list for surgery. I was lucky that I got a cancellation slot so I finally had the surgery in mid September. If only I had paid more attention to it in the summer of 2013! Makes sense to see if you can race the races you want to do if you can complete them (however much pain that might entail along the way.)

  3. I so understand what you mean. Although I’ve never been a very good runner I discovered ultras two years ago and from only a few marathons I ran two 24 hours (71 then 88 miles) and a 40 miles race shortly followed by a couple of marathons in the space of 4 months. Since then I have had chronic Achilles pain that led to long term injury last year and I have been running in pain ever since. I hope you get your pains sorted soon and that you get back to running pain free for a long time.

    • ultraboycreates said:

      Let’s hope we both get to be pain free – have you had it properly investigated to see if the problem can be resolved?

      • I did last year and thought I was getting better after sessions of needle free acupuncture but now the other side is niggly. I must be doing something wrong!

      • ultraboycreates said:

        I know that feeling! Hopefully it’s a something and nothing but regardless get it checked out

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