Brinkmanship (i)

Writing my last post, having completed my first run in almost three months just two days before, and anticipating the second the next day, I dared to suggest that I might “start tinkering with 12 week marathon training plans” for my planned first marathon in Brighton. All the same, I knew even then that choosing not to run Brighton in April would be a better decision.

My run the next morning made it easier to make that decision. From around 4k, my right knee became significantly sore. I completed the final kilometre, not least because I needed to get home, but I was distinctly disheartened. My condition seemed to be getting worse; throughout the several months of my knee being swollen, I had never experienced significant discomfort during a run before.

I will now definitely be deferring my Brighton Marathon 2016 place, which at least affords a 20% discount on a 2017 entry. What would have been a preparatory half marathon at Silverstone in mid March has no deferral option. My only other advance entry is the Thames Path Challenge 50k in September which I hope to run, but only if I achieve a full, sustained recovery over the next six or seven months. The 50k also has no deferral option, but since I entered all three events well in advance my total entry fee loss will be under £100. It helps if I rationalise that this is a little less than the cost of two physio sessions!

I took ten days rest before running again. During this period, the swelling on my knee reduced significantly and my third run of the year was comfortably uneventful. Following a further five rest days, during which period the swelling on my knee disappeared completely for the first time since October, I set out on the fourth run of the year nervously hopeful …

It too was essentially comfortable and uneventful, I even ran an additional 500m over the planned 5k! Inevitably I was hyper-sensitive to the possibility of returning injury and so was very aware of every sensation as I ran. I did feel several moments of fleeting discomfort in my right knee, but couldn’t really define these in a specific way. Most significantly there was no return of swelling on my knee during or following the run. Manipulating my right knee I can feel that it is still ‘not quite right’ in comparison to my left, but this is minimal enough that I am looking forward to my next run, tomorrow, much more positively than I have for more than four months.

On the brink

Last Friday, I had the fourth in series of physio appointments directed at resolving an ongoing problem with a bursa on my right knee. In the few days preceding the appointment I had been reflecting on the minimal improvement in my knee since the previous appointment two weeks earlier. I had decided that, unless my physio had a much more positive perspective than I did, I should expect to start yet another month as a non-running runner and would have to defer my Brighton marathon entry; race day is now less than 12 weeks away. I had already accepted a few weeks ago that I certainly won’t be racing my Silverstone half marathon; that race is now less than 8 weeks away.

Fortunately, my physio’s perception of progress was more positive than my mine. He was confident that cumulatively the swelling had improved significantly and that I should try an easy, flat 5k and review the effect of my knee after that.

And so it was that on Saturday I went for my first run since the last day of October. In normal circumstances my easy pace defaults to around 4:50/km and although on long runs I try to run significantly more slowly, 20 seconds per kilometre or so, I often end up averaging within a few seconds either side of 5:00/km. I wanted to run closer to 5:30/km and was mildly concerned that my natural rhythm and enthusiasm would push me along too quickly. I needn’t have worried. Three months without running, or any significant exercise, meant that my cardiovascular system ably limited me to an average of 5:20/km. And my quads, hamstrings and bizarrely, albeit to a lesser degree, my biceps have been noticeably stiff over the two days since.

As for my knee; although I can sense some swelling – perhaps a slight increase since the run – there doesn’t seem to have been a catastrophic relapse. Having said that I am currently sensing this through a layer of tape – my physio has applied tape at each of the last three appointments to offload some of the stress on my knee. I am going to repeat Saturday’s run tomorrow morning – Tuesday – with the tape still in place and then remove it immediately afterward. I will then have a further two days rest to review any reaction in my knee. If all seems well I shall repeat the run again on Friday. And then probably start tinkering with 12 week marathon training plans …