Back to Square One

I definitely overdid the mileage last week. When my left achilles tendon was too sore to run on again on Monday I decided to not run for at least a week. I actually meant it this time, I simply have to get this sorted.

This injury is becoming chronic and is now worrying me.  Now is the time that I ought to be really stepping up my training and banging our 60 mile plus weeks with 20 mile long runs every week.

The only meagre consolation from not running is that there is a lot less washing to do. There is no other advantage as far as I am concerned.

Work is quite stressful for me at the moment for reasons I won’t bore anyone with.  I normally declutter my whirling brain each lunchtime by running for at least 9 miles. I have really missed my lunchtime run more than anything else this week.  I could have gone out walking instead, but that doesn’t cut it for me, so I moped off to the café each lunchtime, got myself an unhealthy sandwich and went back to my desk and carried on working.

A midweek Facebook post reminded me that I had put my name down for the Northern Cross Country championship at Blackburn on Saturday.  I was about to explain my predicament and make my excuses when it became clear that Valley Striders had only six male entries.  Six finishers is the minimum number required for a team result. The deadline for entries had long since passed, so basically, I had to run.  I explained that I would not be quick, but I would turn out.

I travelled across to Blackburn with team-mates Jon and Kev.  Jon had researched the course and said that it was brutal and the men’s course of 12K contained nearly a thousand feet of ascent. Kev and I laughed, that just couldn’t be true, could it…

Unfortunately for us, on Saturday afternoon God was fiddling about with his new weather app. He gave us intermittent blasts of driving rain, gusting winds, a few minutes of watery sunshine, then weird ten minute squalls of hailstones and sleet.

Three months of record-breaking rainfall totals and a full programme of junior races left the course looking like a mass of farmyard slurry, there was barely a blade of green to be seen. One of our lady racers even lost her shoe in the deep mud.

My plan was to run steadily, see how the injury felt and just to make sure that I got round so that I counted for the team. I had my 15mm spikes in and I had triple knotted my shoes tightly to ensure that they remained on my feet.

The men’s race was four 3K laps of the park. After about two hundred yards I realised that my spikes were virtually useless. In twenty five centimetres of mud, it didn’t matter what you wore, because your feet were going to slip sideways on every stride.

As expected the race was brutal.  With two long steep climbs into the wind on each lap, runners were strewn all over the place. During my second lap we had the added bonus of another horizontal hail storm right into our faces. You simply could not lift up your head. It was savage.

My 10K race pace on the road is about 5 minutes 50 per mile. In this race, when I was running about as hard as I was physically able to go my mile splits were:  7:39, 8:25, 8:54, 8:46, 9:31, 9:37 and 8:39.  On the bright side, because of the hellish conditions, I didn’t have time to think about my achilles. I was aware of some mild discomfort, but I had bigger things to worry about, like how to get myself to the end of this bloody ordeal.

I was lapped at the start of my third lap. Maybe the first thirty lads in the field eventually lapped me. I didn’t care.

The winner was Charlie Hulson, a multiple GB International and the reigning National cross country champion. He completed the course in just over 43 minutes at 6 minutes per mile pace. In those conditions, that was superhuman.

I finished in 394th position in 1 hour, 2 minutes 38 seconds. There were 719 finishers, and a lot more starters because I’m sure there was a high dropout rate. With a skeleton team of just 6, Valley Striders finished in 22nd position out of 52 teams in the men’s and the four ladies finished 24th out of 40. No Striders dropped out. Chapeau to every one of my team-mates.

Here’s a picture of my gleaming yellow Puma cross country spikes after the race:

cross country Jan .JPG

Unfortunately the race has aggravated my Achilles – unsurprising really. I tried to go for gentle recovery jog tonight (Sunday), but after about four hundred metres I abandoned the run and skulked home.

Tomorrow, I’m making an appointment with a sports injury clinic.




CM -17 weeks

7.5 miles

Weight 11st 5 lb

Parkrun – None

Longest run 7.1 miles


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