THE REALISATION came 40 minutes in, just after the service station and before the yelping terrier.
After 93 days of pain, rest, stretching, rolling, cursing and – slowly, slowly – running again it struck me: I was going to complete the 10k.
Thirteen weeks after I limped into my physiotherapist’s clinic I was finally back to my regular running distance.
I was ordered off running and onto foam rolling, with a shot of dry needling thrown in for a bit of variety.
In the weeks after I moved from walks to 5k jogs to 7.5k runs. I even hiked Lugnaquilla on a 13k loop.
But, until last Saturday I hadn’t attempted my usual distance in a run.
The final couple of kilometres weren’t easy, and running half the route on concrete was foolhardy, but I made it over the line.
Initially I felt good. Twenty-fours hours later darts of pain through my soles warned me not to overdo it.
That’s the odd thing about this habit. I spent the summer recovering and re-training to reach a position where I could easily injure myself again.
Strangely, the risk of another serious injury doesn’t bother me like I thought it would. Perhaps the hours of stretching, glute lifts and other tedious exercises have finally taught me patience.
But there’s something else.
As I’ve gotten older the spectre of pain has loomed larger in physical exercise, be it running or hiking.
If it’s not to the fore it’s always out there somewhere, 10 or 50 or 100k down the road, at the bottom of the next hill.
When I first blogged on my injury back in May my friend C wrote to me, observing that many runners, as they age, appear to be hooked on battling pain.
This is somewhat true, I think. My youthful 20s are a distant memory and I’ve now factored discomfort into my running routine; it’s another element, like weather or time of day.
Writer Haruki Murakami, in his running memoir, recounts advice he once came across in an interview with a successful marathon competitor. “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional…The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand any more is up to the runner himself”.*
Good advice, but still I didn’t repeat last weekend’s 10k the following day. Not wanting to take a chance with pain, or suffering, I jogged out a cautious 7.5k.
I’m still not fully recovered. But I have that fresh 10k in my back pocket.
That’ll do – for now.
*Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Vintage, 2009), p vii