Posted by: Nick Duxbury27/01/2012
Bad news folks. I have chondromalacia patellae, otherwise known as Iliotibial band syndrome, or patello-femoral pain.
This is not an obscure genital infection. A quick Google search explains that this is perhaps best known as Runners’ knee: ‘a softening or wearing away and cracking of the cartilage under the kneecap, resulting in pain and inflammation. The cartilage becomes like sandpaper…’
There is a silver lining here somewhere. First of all it is vaguely common ailment; apparently around one in four runners suffer from it (the weaker un-sporty ones, probably).
Second, it is at least evidence that I have been doing enough training to have bagged a legitimate running injury. Yep, that’s right: since I last blogged I have been busy.
My efforts in earnest began on Christmas morning. I don’t think I have ever felt smugger than slipping out the door in the drizzle and busting a gut to get to the top of the downs behind my house and then coming home in time to open my stocking on the day of national gluttony.
I committed myself to running every day until New Years Eve. And I did. Most days I ran a four mile loop with my army friend who was armed with a precision sat nav watch that measured our exact pace at any given time. Richard, known, not without irony to some of his friends as Dangerous Percy, or ‘Danger’ is also running the marathon. He is far fitter than me and pushed me into running whatever the weather. One day he made me run four miles in 31 minutes.
That was a milestone and felt a bit like progress.
Another day I drove to Dorset and ran from Studland Bay round past Old Harry’s Rock to Swanage and back. In the pouring rain. And I loved it. To be honest, it’s not that hard when you’re bored in the countryside.
When I got back to London things were harder. Much harder. The smugness I had enjoyed was gone – I needed a way to get it back.
At first I tried to run back from work four nights a week - a four and a half mile journey from Canary Wharf north along the canal past Victoria Park and the west towards Dalston – and then a longer run on Saturday.
When I tried this before Christmas it was an erratic, arduous, affair that would culminate in me arriving home ravenous, tired and sweaty. Huge 10.30pm suppers were making it hard for me to sleep, and I was resenting the process. After a long press day, the last thing you want to do is don the lycra and hit the pavement in the cold rain and darkness.
Now, I was finding it more of a routine having upped my runs from three times a week to every night. But it was only when I forced myself to start running in to work instead of out that it all started to make sense again. Morning running is the key to smugness and frees up the evenings.
And since New Year I have been holding myself back on weekend nights out so that I am not too hungover to do bigger runs in the morning. What a new world that has opened up. Apart from the fact that I am remembering what a Saturday morning feels like, I have been able to rack up 10 mile runs (usually just laps of Victoria Park) and then return to the house before any of my friends have even considered stirring (albeit at 1pm).
It’s just when you begin reveling in the resulting smugness and start asking yourself why you didn’t do this years ago that you suddenly realise why not. It’s not actually good for you – bad even. Our cotton wool wrapped bodies are not ready or used to the violence and repetitive trauma of running on tarmac everyday. Walking up or down stairs is now painful. My knees click furiously if I dare so much as bend them. Strangely my knees actually hurt less when I run than when I walk. Added to this, now even my right ankle/calf is hurting
I tried to blame my new running shoes and returned to the treadmill for yet another video analysis, the woman in Runners Need informed that I have weak quads.
‘Weak quads’. Whatever.
Well, at first I dismissed this idea as a bitter retailer resenting the fact I was trying to return a product and decided to try and ‘run it off’.
Let’s call it a ‘magic sponge’ mentality. After a few weeks of trying, I can confirm that the magic sponge mentality is bull and I definitely need to do something about my knees that doesn’t involve expensive consultations with physiotherapists who will, in all likelihood, tell me to run less – which given how far away from being marathon fit I am is simply not an option.
It turns out the morose sales woman is right: I so have weak quads. The remedy is time in the gym doing a series of exercises that I would be pretty embarrassed to do in any gym – but especially our work gym which happens to be populated by muscle bound, overly helpful, protein guzzling antipodeans. They must never know about my weak quads.
Today I made my first trip to the gym in a long time. I used to go in order to do beach weights. There was no real strategy, it was just a case of lifting as much as I could in half and hour so that I looked okay naked. This time, my motivation was not aesthetics, but performance.
First of all I did some pull-ups just so every one knew I meant business. Then I did some leg weights until my quads burned. This was legitimate gym activity. Next, I approached the bench press.
There was a queue of bigger people in singlets clutching energy drinks and protein shakes. This is was the worst case scenario. After 10 minutes, it was my turn and they all watched as I proceeded to begin squats with the bench press bar on my shoulders (with no weights on the end).
I looked pathetic – and I felt pathetic. My weak quads felt like they were about to pop. And now, with the lactic acid finally leaving my legs I sit here typing in the knowledge that pain and embarrassment is my new medicine.
Anyway, that’s the long update story short.
However, going forward I won’t bore you with my fast fading smugness or the anal details of my training plan.
No. Instead I will be writing less, but more frequently so that I can focus instead on the bizarre world I have entered; one where competitive couples run together in silent loathing, roller bladers are universally acknowledged as scum, cyclists frequently nearly kill you, some shorts are too short, and the chafing – oh the chafing.
All I ask, as I place plasters over nipples and cup myself sadly, is that you make this worth it and donate anything you can spare to a fantastic cause.
From Home run
Tracking the progress of Inside Housing staff and others running the London Marathon for the Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust