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Living with Setbacks

Sometimes you just cannot win, I thought as I limped onto a plane today to Malaysia for a day meeting tomorrow. A few minutes before I had been not limping, feeling my leg was getting back to normal and happily admiring some rather lovely orchids that slightly incongruously can be found in one of the terminal buildings at Changi airport in Singapore (together with a rather impressive spread of sunflowers on a terrace overlooking the departure gates). Now I was in some level of agony because, as I slipped my boots off for security I felt the muscle – the one I have been trying to nurse back to health for about a month – tear rather badly. I managed to avoid swearing somehow (there were very small children around) and just limped on with it. The irony us I probably need not have bothered – it was just that the sign said removed high boots and the DMs fitted that description. If I had decided not to be overly conscientious I would be well on the road to recovery, rather than back at square one, or possibly worse.

While I am hardly a sporting great, running is really important to me, and being injured hurts a lot more than the physical pain, because it brings frustration as well. I miss the pleasure of the feeling after a good run. I am not quite in the ‘I enjoy it as I do it’ category, although there are people who clearly do – in St Albans we regularly see a young lady training with what we assume is the St Albans boys school cross country team in the Abbey Orchard, and from the slightly insane grin on her face she is obviously getting something out of the activity in the moment as well as in retrospect. I worry about fitness loss and weight gain (which I can very much ill afford) and then the terrible, nagging doubt that this time it will be serious enough to stop me running altogether, in any meaningful way. I guess that will come at some point – I do not think I have the true grit that the septuagenarians who often pass me in big races, with often with a very curious gait that while looking odd clearly Works For Them. But I am certainly not ready for that point now, if my body will let me.

The harsh reality is that I am getting older and my body is not as robust as it was twenty years ago when some friends introduced me to running and I finally started to get a bit fitter. Like a lot of things, I have a tendency to be lazy unless forced – the Lovely Wife will be sympathetic but point out that my lack of effective stretching has partly caused the problem. Not enough flexibility means there is the possibility of breaking – and at the moment I am broken.

So I have to promise myself to be better, and to accept that even if the pain goes quickly, I have to let it heal. That probably means no running until July at least… At that point it will be getting late to get ready for my 22nd and final Great North Run; I intend this year to run for charity, possibly dressed once more as some kind of animal – but whether I will be doing it or not feels, tonight at least, very much in the balance.

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