Is it a good thing or a bad thing when a medical professional tells you that you’re a fascinating case? The two physios I’ve seen over the last six months were both fascinated by my calf muscles. They see calf muscles all day every day, right? It was slightly unnerving that they were especially interested in mine. I saw the sports injury consultant today. His first question to me when I walked through the door and we’d exchanged pleasantries was,
“So, what’s your sport?”
This threw me somewhat, as I see myself as a hobbyist at best. I dabble with running, swimming and cycling, but I’m hardly Mo Farah, Michael Phelps or Sir Chris Hoy, am I?
I’ve been having mechanical problems, as I keep telling everyone, and I discussed these with the specialist, although he was equally as interested in my multiple sclerosis, when it started, how it first presented itself and how it affected me now.
The long and the short of it is that he wants me to keep running and is keen to get me back on the road as soon as possible. Within 15 minutes of meeting me, he’d already gauged that running was vitally important to both my physiological and psychological sense of wellbeing and he was adamant that this should continue for as long as possible. He’s right, of course. Running is important to me; it’s when I’m running that I feel as though I’m free. It’s painful and it’s hard and it’s often a slog, but it brings on a sense of good, honest fatigue… not the creeping lassitude you get from MS. I swim and I cycle, but neither of them have quite the same effect on me as running. Running just feels purer somehow.
I drop my left foot when I run. I have a lack of dorsiflexion in my left ankle. My left thigh is noticeably less well developed than the equivalent muscle on the right (not that I’ve ever noticed before today - I guess that explains why that new pair of skinny jeans felt like it had one leg tighter than the other. It wasn't the jeans cut weirdly after all - it was me). These things are all likely to be caused by neurological issues and are causing me to run differently as I get tired and this in turn is causing mechanical problems in my feet, calves, knees and groin. Cumulatively, these problems are adding up and are really affecting my ability to run and taking a physical toll on my body.
When I feel fatigued, it can sometimes be hard to get out of the door to go for a run, but I always make myself do it. Always. For the first time in my life, I’m worried that this iron will might actually be causing me to hurt myself. I can push through fatigue, but if the fatigue is causing my body to break, then maybe I should stop?
Nonsense, says the specialist. I may have to cut my miles back and start to do more cycling and more swimming, but he’s damned if he’s going to let my neurology stop me from running altogether. We can work on the flexibility of my ankle and the strength of my glutes to support my knee as I run. He’s seen 39 year olds without MS in worse physical condition than me, and with the miles on the clock really starting to add up, some kind of wear and tear is inevitable.
More stretching. More physio. More running. Adapt, adjust and keep running.
So, in summary: fuck you, multiple sclerosis. This show is still on the road.