Today, the inaugural Bournemouth & Poole Marathon was taking place. At the time you had to enter earlier in the year, I had no interest in doing anything competitive, but today I was really disappointed not to be doing it. Being a little bit bonkers, I decided I’d do my own marathon – lots of trails and no care about time, just 26.2 miles of fun. It went almost perfectly for the first half a mile…
26.2 miles is quite a long way, and when I first started thinking about doing a marathon length run on this specified day we originally had a lot on so it was going to be an evening/night run. As fun as that is, when you start pushing the length it can get a bit dull, running mostly around streets. And I do love a bit of trail running now.
I found out last night (the day before this run) that I had a good few hours free in the day, so I spent an hour or so fiddling around with GPX files and Garmin Connect and came up with a route starting in Christchurch, running up the Avon Valley Way to Ringwood then back on the Castleman Trailway to home. This would be near enough to 26.2 miles, and if it was a bit short I was planning on adding a bit of random road on to make up the distance.
With that all sorted and programmed into my Garmin 310XT, I woke up feeling appropriately rubbish this morning. You always do when you have a long run I find, which is why I’ve got into the habit now of randomly just deciding to go on a run and going out without thinking about it.
I had some muesli and yogurt for breakfast and packed my bag. 5 Gu gels, a tracker bar, 15 quid, a debit card, camera, phone and headphones. All stuck in my Camelbak with 2 litres of water (with a couple of electrolyte tablets in). I wore my Skins calf compression “socks” and opted for my Salomon Speedcross 3 trail shoes as my planned route was mainly on trails.
The rest of the family were off to dance rehearsals, so I hitched a lift with them to the hall close to Christchurch. After a fight with my phone (it wouldn’t boot), and my watch (it wouldn’t find any satellites), I set off about 0940.
The First Half Mile
The first half mile was almost fine. I felt OK, had Ian Fleming’s Octopussy audio book on my headphones, and just got on with the run. My headphone lead wasn’t in quite the right place, so I kept fiddling with it. In the end, I pulled it right out of the Camelbak strap and started figuring out a way of wrapping it around so it wouldn’t come loose.
All while running.
Which, it turns out, was a bad idea.
That was just about one the only word I didn’t use when my ankle went over and I hopped twice then fell on the floor. I’d gone over on my ankle, on a solid pavement, and as I was fiddling with my headphones at the time I didn’t properly react and put way too much body weight on the turned ankle.
The first time I went over on my ankle was while skipping (quite drunk) at university about 15 years ago. That was a bad one, landing from a height on a turned ankle and ending up in A&E the next morning after I’d passed out when I put some weight on it. I’ve done it quite a few times since then but always “caught” it – reacted in time and lifted myself on the other foot (ending up in an embarrassing high hop) – ending up with a bit of pain in the ligaments/muscles the next couple of days but nothing too much. And I’ve always found that just getting on with the run makes the initial pain go away, so there’s no point stopping.
This time was as close to that original injury as I’ve ever come. I honestly thought I’d broken my ankle initially. Trying to lie down on the pavement with a Camelbak on doesn’t work, so I was in a half crunch position gripping my foot and grimacing.
I thought about the consequences of this. I couldn’t run, so I’d have to hobble back to the car. I could then wait for 4-5 hours for everyone to finish and drive home. Or I could drive home if my foot worked enough, and then come out and pick everyone up later. The trip was about 45 minutes each way. On top of all that, I wouldn’t get a run in. None of that appealed to me in the slightest.
So I stood up. I felt a bit light headed, but I put weight on the foot. It held. I hobbled along a bit, and with some grimacing, I figured I could pick up speed as long as I didn’t twist the foot out of a straight-forward position. I gave it another couple of minutes of walking backwards and forwards up and down the road, then decided to give it a go running.
And that was that. It wasn’t fast, but it was running. The pain in my foot was subsiding and it was replaced with a real feeling of instability, like the smallest ripple in the ground would send it twisting over again. But that was OK, I’d just be careful.
2 miles later I was running down Christchurch High Street trying to find the the Avon Valley Path (I’m sure every long distance path is deliberately difficult to find!) and feeling pretty good. I found a swan, and as I have history with swans I took a photo – utterly overexposed, but it’s the thought that counts 🙂
I found the path, then lost it again in some housing estate about 2 miles later and ended up running a couple of miles up a busy road with no footpath which wasn’t too nice. I was relieved to see the Avon Valley Path sign again, but got lost within another 500 metres and had to follow my Garmin route map, cutting around the edge of some field and through a football field to get back onto the busy road!
I did eventually managed to find the path again, and when I passed a guy walking his dog I checked I was on the right path to Ringwood.
Now I’d confirmed that I was going in the right direction, I sent a text message to my wife asking for her to pick me up at Ringwood (total distance would be about 10 miles I thought) as my foot was bothering me a bit. When I eventually got to the market square in the town, my total distance was up to 12 miles.
Cafe Nero. That’ll do – I got a large cafe latte while I waited for my wife to get back to me. I finished the latte… still no word. What’s an injured but bored idiot to do? I sent her another message saying I was heading home and for her to get in touch when she saw her messages, and headed off.
It actually felt good to be running again, although my ankle still felt like it was a bit unstable. My breathing and running was relaxed, I had energy from the coffee and I certainly didn’t feel like I’d just run 12 miles.
At Ashley Heath (about 14.5 miles) I sent my wife another message saying I was moving on, and just as I left I got a reply, so I directed her to West Moors at the end of the next stretch of running.
Before I left, I took a shot of Ashley Heath station from the same spot as a picture I had from 1963:
And then I got on with the running. Most of my miles were coming in under 9 minutes, which is pretty fast for me. It seemed that on flat ground my ankle wasn’t slowing me down at all, and I just kept running and enjoying it.
But at around 16 miles things changed and my ankle started to hurt in an odd way. I ended up walking and running, and got pretty pissed off at everything. Luckily, before I had a fight with a tree, some stones, my shoes, my phone and the air I managed to calm myself down by reminding myself that it was all artificial and it’s gonna feel a whole lot worse on a 24 hour run!
Back at Home
When I got home I took my shoes, socks and Skins off. After a couple of minutes, my ankle was looking pretty decent:
And this is the uninjured one for comparison
I went out hoping to run a marathon, but didn’t managed it. Instead, I learnt two important lessons.
Lesson 1: You can run with some injuries.
Whether it’s a good idea or not is yet to be determined, but considering how I felt when I twisted my ankle at the half mile mark, I’m pretty pleased with myself to have completed 16.5 more miles. As I mentioned, turning my ankle is something I’ve done quite a few times before (I think you’re more prone to it after the first time if you don’t rehab properly), so it was an injury I’m familiar with. If there was bone sticking out, lots of blood or a very unusual kind of pain I would have headed straight back to the car, but I knew what I was dealing with and took one step at a time to see if I could run through it. It’s been a great lesson, and certainly a year or more ago I would have stopped the run and given up completely.
Lesson 2: Long run “grumpiness” is all in your head.
This was a really important thing for me as I can have a habit of getting a bit down and cross on long runs. Everything from wind and rain, to the road surface, to the wrong music, to a stone in my shoe or any number of other things will get me into a totally undeserved rage! I went towards that at around 15-16 miles on this run, but importantly I recognised that it was an unnatural set of emotions brought on by the distance/repetition etc, and I talked myself back down to calmness. That’s something that’s going to be pretty important in the latter stages of my 24 hour run next June!
I’m writing this bit on Monday – the day after the run. I’ve iced my ankle a lot, had a support bandage on and it’s feeling a lot better now. I can’t properly extend my foot without some pain, but a walk around the block with the dog was perfectly manageable. I’ll keep icing today and tomorrow, and might try a gentle 1 or 2 miles running tomorrow to see how it feels. I’ll dig out my wobble board too to work on proprioception so I’m a little less likely to do it again for a while 🙂
Hopefully the next blog post will be about a less eventful (from an injury perspective) run!