I had an appointment with the Sports Injury Clinic at QMC this afternoon, and I left work early fully expecting to have a large needle shoved painfully into the bottom of my foot for my troubles. My plantar fascia has flared up again. When this happened last year, I ended up lying on the bed in my local surgery with my doctor poised over my foot with a syringe with a very heavy gauge needle.
"I'm afraid that this is going to hurt", he said, a touch sorrowfully. It bloody did too, although it did make 85% of the pain go away for about a year, so.... probably just about worth it, on balance.
I've had a pretty miserable eighteen months with injuries: plantar fascia, illiotibial band, hips, knees, cracked ribs..... everything seems to be breaking down. The cracked rib apart - and we're still not talking about that and it still bloody hurts - those are all injuries that can be traced back to my running. I'm nearly forty now, and I've got a few miles on the clock accumulated through more than twenty years of pulling on my trainers and heading outside for a run. I used to loathe running at school and only did so reluctantly, and I let exercise of most sorts slide when I was at university, but since about 1998, I've been running on a regular basis.
I'm proud to say that, although I'm getting older, I think my annual mileage has been increasing with every passing year. With all the strain that puts on my body (my osteopath once told me that I didn't exactly have the optimum build for a runner). I suppose that a few aches and pains are only to be expected.
The difficult thing for me to cope with is that my biomechanical failures are ultimately likely caused by my MS: a weakness in the left side of my body is causing me to lose flexibility in my ankle, to drop my leg, scuff my foot and generally cause havoc. At the clinic today, the consultant decided not to give me an injection into my foot because, as he explained to the observing medical student in the room, that would be addressing the symptom and not the cause: the problems in my foot and my other mechanical problems are being caused by other failures, and an injection would only mask those problems rather than solve them.
The good news is that the consultant seems to understand my compulsion to exercise. We spoke about this when I saw him in May. He's a runner himself, and he'd just had back surgery, and he couldn't wait to get back out onto the roads and explained how he was trying to work out if the pain he was feeling would get better or worse if he went running. Most sane people - especially a doctor - might think that the pain is a pretty good indication to stay at home; a runner is busy trying to work out if he can use it to justify a nice, gentle 3 miler. He knows I have multiple sclerosis, and he knows that there may be underlying neurological issues that he can't do anything about. He's not worried about that. His primary concern is to address the mechanical issues that are causing me problems and to keep me on the road. From my point of view, this is excellent news. He's referring me to have some detailed physiotherapy at the hospital to see if they can address the problems with the loss of flexibility in my ankle and to try and stop the foot scuffing. It's perhaps not the quick fix I might have wanted (even if it involved a big needle), but we're playing the long game here.
Before I left the consultation, I turned to the two doctors:
"You do realise that I'm using this session as an excuse not to take any exercise today"
Quick as a flash, the consultant replied, "Oh really? You're not even going to try and fit in a quick bike ride?"
You see: he gets it.
After deciding not to go back to the office, I got home reasonably early for once, and I've been fighting the compulsion to get my kit together and to go to running club for tonight's 5 miler. I'm cycling to work tomorrow and going for a run at lunchtime. I find it so, so difficult to do nothing..... I like to think that this determination and sheer will to exercise no matter what is a good thing, but I suppose it can be a weakness too. Sometimes you need to know when to stop.
With that said, I think I'm going to resist the temptation to run tonight and will succumb to the temptation to eat fish and chips instead.
Related to this, Runkeeper posted a link to this on Facebook the other day and it really strikes a chord. 10 Lessons that Running Teaches You About Life.
If you ask me, there's a lot to be learned here about much more than just running...... A lot of my attitude towards my multiple sclerosis is articulated here.
1, 5 and 7 especially. Keep going, no matter what. Never let your setbacks win. You define your own limits.... sorry if I sound like a shitty motivational poster, and I despise this stuff when someone tries to apply it to our shitty, trivial jobs. But this is your life and you only get one of those. You just have to believe it, bro.
1. When things get tough, just keep going.
When most people encounter a rough patch, they quit. The truly successful people in the world keep going no matter what. Never let your setbacks win.
2. Consistency creates habit.
To incorporate anything into your life, you have to make it a habit. To make something a habit, you have to be consistent. Whatever it is you’re aiming for, make it a part of your life.
3. You’ll have to get through hell before you get to heaven.
Like all things worth pursuing, you are going to get knocked down, stepped on, and rejected along the way. Consider this to be part of the path to your goals. Sometimes it’s more about the journey than the destination.
4. Reaching your goals will take a lot of work.
If it doesn’t, it’s either not a goal, not worth pursuing, or will not have any fulfillment. Never expect to not put in work and get somewhere.
5. Every aspect of life is mental.
It’s not about what you do or what happens to you, it’s about how to respond to it. It’s how you decide to carry on. Your power comes from inside your head.
6. You do have time– you just have to make it.
If something is important to you, you’ll make time for it. If not, you’ll make excuses.
7. You define your own limits.
Your limits aren’t put unto you by your parents, other people, or the universe. You are in total control of it. You decide whether or not to shoot for the moon or stay right where you are.
8. If you wait for the right conditions, you’ll never get anything done.
Don’t wait for anything or anybody. You know what you have to do to reach your goals and get things done. Just go do them!
9. Go beyond your limits every day and watch the magic happen.
You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve if you just push yourself a little further.
10. There is peace even in the most chaotic times.
No matter now gruelling, stressful, sorrowful, or painful your situation is, there is always a silver lining and something positive to be found. Seek it out, learn from it, and keep moving on.