"Ships are safest when they are in harbour, but that's not what ships are for."
After 50 years or so of abuse or enjoyment depending on your viewpoint, my lower spine is pretty compressed. It makes me an inch shorter than I once was and while it hurts ones pride a bit this aspect doesn't actually prevent me doing anything. The real problem is that no matter how much stretching or other mobility exercises I do it still seizes up progressively and I'm supposed to go to the physio every three months for two or three sessions of general pulling about to get it going again. But I'm lazy or disorganised or don't learn from my mistakes very well and I tend to wait until it starts hurting which it did last week so off I went to face the music about three months late. While I was there, suitably chastened, I had to admit to Karen that I'd also been having pain in my right achilles/calf area. I think it started about four or five weeks ago I guessed, I can tell that she said digging into ageing scar tissue, and if you looked after your back better you probably wouldn't have it. Then there was the usual discussion about how much running might be possible while it settled down, you know how it goes. As I was peering vacantly through that little hole in the couch that lets you breathe while you're being worked on, I took stock of the bits that don't work too well:
- chronic plantar fasciitis in left foot, result of too many miles in unsuitable shoes in my first year of ultras
- ruptured (now missing) ACL in right knee, trying unsuccessfully to ski breakable crust
- recurrent left groin strain, initial cause unknown
- onset of arthritis in knees and most fingers, partly genetic but exascerbated by a lifetime of mountaineering
- and where we started, a bad back
I don't claim any bragging rights regarding this list, it seems a pretty average collection as far as distance runners go. I've been really lucky in avoiding the sort of problems that keep you out for weeks or months and I seem to recover quickly from races (maybe I don't try hard enough...). I just feel it would be nice occasionally to go out for thirty miles or so without something starting to hurt. If I articulate this thought some-one always reminds me that we do this for fun and I could have an easy life and stop, but surely that's just the road to gardening, Coronation Street and eventual oblivion.
So I keep taking the pills, re-read the section in Tim Noakes' book about outwitting the central governor of the brain, remind myself that the Drama Queen ran 90 miles of the West Highland Way with a broken ankle, and tell myself to stop being a wimp. But real spur of course, the clincher, is that I can never resist the intoxicating mix of anticipation, trepidation, and excitement that comes from turning up on the start line of the next race. So, fellow Highland Flingers, if you're privileged enough to be starting with the Lassies and the Auld Men, I'll see you for the early start in Milngavie in a couple of weeks. If you're younger, fitter and faster, I'll see you at the finish, or more probably somewhere along the trail!
"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head -
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"
"In my youth," Father William said to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,Why, I do it again and again." (Lewis Carroll)