Tuesday, 3 March 2015
the fallen are the virtuous among us...
I sometimes act as a guide for a blind runner at parkrun. I find this inspirational in all sorts of ways, but perhaps the most impressive thing of all is the way that Terry picks himself up after he has fallen down. Falling seems to be a fact of life for a blind runner. I know that it’s a statement of the obvious, but he can’t see where he is going and he relies upon his guide to give him a running commentary on what’s happening around him and how the terrain we’re running on is changing and if we’re approaching corners or other obstacles. Even then, there is simply no getting away from the fact that, every so often, Terry will land his foot awkwardly and will tumble.
When I last ran with him, his foot slipped on some mud as we negotiated a very gentle slope on the course, and down he went. It must be an awful feeling, knowing that you’re going to fall, but not being able to see where you are or how you’re going to land. Terry tells me that it’s generally better if you just fall, because it’s when you throw out an arm or a leg to try and stop yourself that you can really hurt yourself. After he fell when we were out together, he took a moment to gather himself and to do a quick mental inventory to check that everything seemed in good working order, and then he was back on his feet and focused on running the last mile of the course. It happens. He wants to keep running, and this is just part and parcel of the running experience for him. The week before that, he'd fallen three times, so in some ways, this was a good week.
I fell yesterday too. I was on the last half mile of a run with running club. I’d spent the first three miles gently easing the stiffness out of my muscles from Sunday’s fourteen miler, and was very pleased to find that I had some real spring in my step by the time I turned for home. I was running over some uneven paving stones on Trent Bridge and suddenly found myself plunging forwards, head first. I ended up flat on my back, facing in the opposite direction to the way I had been running.
This happens to me sometimes. As I get tired, I drop the weaker left side of my body. I have lost dorsiflexion in my left ankle and I “drop” my left foot as I run. I ran forty miles last week and, although I felt great, my body was tired when I went out last night, and clearly my slightly dropped left foot had an appointment with that slightly lifted paving stone and down I went.
As I lay on the pavement, flat on my back, I carried out a quick mental inventory and everything seemed fine. I grazed my knee and scuffed my wedding ring, but was otherwise alright. The runners behind me stopped to make sure I was okay and to assure me that my fall had definitely looked spectacular, but I picked myself up and finished the run. What other choice do I have? If I want to run, I have to accept that sometimes I’m going to fall and that I’m just going to have to pick myself up, dust myself down and get on with it. If Terry can do it, then I reckon I can do it too. We all have our crosses to bear, right?
Oh wait. There is another option…. I can wear that ankle brace thing that is supposed to stop my foot dropping when I get tired. It’s uncomfortable and is leaving a set of splendid scars on my ankle and calf, but I suppose I can’t really pretend that I don’t need it any more. Well, unless I want to do a lot more falling over, anyway.