I don’t listen to Joni Mitchell when I’m running.
Her light-as-air voice and folk-jazz stylings jar with the lung-exploding, grunting, existential trauma that characterises my regular circuit.
Neglecting to listen to my body (until, eventually, it grabbed me by the collar, shrieking in pain) saw me out of running shoes and onto the physiotherapist’s bench. It also introduced me to cruel, unusual and wholly necessary punishment of foam rolling. More of that below.
The background to all this goes back three years to a New York Times’ article I read on the pointlessness of stretching before a run. My mistake was extending this advice to after my run too.
The result was chalking up five 10km runs a week with minimal (read: zero) warm-down stretching. Maybe a dozen times in three years, and just hams and calves to boot.
The eventual outcome of this should have been apparent in advance – not least when I found myself crawling off the table in agony after a couple of leg massage sessions last year.
But no. I jogged on and on, approaching the painful reckoning one 10k at a time. It eventually occurred when I stubbed my toe on a crack in a concrete pavement in early May.
That was painful, but still not enough of a wake-up call. So for two weeks I continued to run on a big toe which, I later discovered, was sprained.
A day after I blogged about my injury I attended my physiotherapist who, deftly masking her horror at the condition of my feet and legs, ordered me off running for a month.
Like a pulling a piece of muscular string the toe sprain had kicked off plantar fascisitis (swelling of tendon on the sole of the foot) in both feet, strained my peroneal muscles (on either side of the shin) and my vastus medialis (the muscles above the knee).
My gait had wrenched my overworked muscles so tight that I could barely walk.
And so began a programme involving various types of stretching, golf balls under the feet, leg strengthening exercises and the foam roller. Oh – and having steel needles inserted directly into my knotted leg muscles, which feels exactly as it reads.
The icing on the rehabilitation cake though is my foam roller, a piece of molded plastic that I roll under my knotted leg muscles, producing fist-chewing levels of discomfort and instant sweats. The roller’s improved the condition of my legs considerably, and my lexicon of swearwords.
The treatment’s ongoing and the pain’s still present. But the physio’s allowed me three 5k runs a week at this stage, which has saved me from losing my mind (and my ever-patient wife from losing hers). I’m getting back from the sofa to the street, slowly but surely.
And I’m loathe to see a moral in all this, other than ‘don’t be an idiot, you idiot’.
As Joni Mitchell might say, I’ve seen toes from both sides now.