Given my MS and how much I run, I've been astonishingly lucky with injuries. I had a run of problems with my ITB, hip and plantar fascia on my weaker left side a few years back, but since then I've basically had a mostly trouble-free run. When I entered the London Marathon in 2015, I was a little worried about how my body would hold up to the strain of the training, but actually we managed okay.... better than okay. Well enough that I ran the damn thing again - 40 minutes faster - in 2016. I definitely crossed the finish line this year with a very clear understanding of how physically hard a marathon is... but that's famously true for pretty much everyone, isn't it?
After running 45km at Thunder Run a couple of weeks ago, I developed a problem in my left calf (it's no coincidence that the problems I have tend to manifest themselves on my weaker side). I was fine over the weekend itself, but work commitments meant I wasn't able to run again until the Wednesday, and as I was doing some intervals in a warm-up to a mile time trial, my calf got stiffer and stiffer until it reached the point where I thought it might actually go pop, so I stopped. Much to my annoyance, it didn't seem to ease up much with rest, and when I tried to run again on Saturday, it lasted about a mile before the same thing happened again.
As you've probably worked out, runners aren't very good at not running.
I went to the physio. Doctors are all well and good, but when it comes to a hands-on understanding of the mechanics of the human body, you really need to see a physiotherapist. After a careful assessment of the way my body moved and an assessment of the muscles on both sides of my body, the physio quickly worked out that I hadn't torn or pulled anything (which was good news), but that my calf was simply extremely tight. At a second session, a week later, she did some further investigation and worked out that the tightness in my calf was just the end of the line of a series of apparently very tender muscles further up the chain on my left side. To cut a long story short, my body has been working like mad to compensate for the weakness on that side, and my muscles were simply pushed so far that they began complaining louder than usual. It also doesn't help that, for some reason, my calf muscles are heavily bulked on the inside of my leg (rather than the more usual outside), and that this muscle bulk is pushing the fascia in that leg up against the tibia.
As physios do, she gave me a lot of exercises to do that I need to try and remember to keep doing when my leg stops hurting. They're mostly all about balance, because that seems to be the root of all my problems (I'm a lot less stable on my weaker side).
The good news is that my leg is feeling a lot better and I've started to run again with little pain. The bad news is that these cumulative problems are only likely to get worse over time and that running as I do is going to expose these problems.
Well. Here's the thing. I'm not going to stop running. Running makes me feel good about myself and, as long as I can run, I feel as though my MS isn't dictating how I live my life (in fact, I've run more since my diagnosis than I ever ran before). I may have to slow down and adjust my targets, but I'm damned if I'm going to give up.
Ten days not running has reminded me how much I love to run. It's good to be back on the road again now, but it's good to remember that every moment running is a moment to be cherished.
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