Nobody with any kind of claim to fitness can say they’ve never been injured. It’s a badge of honour to have had some sort of prang. If you’re among sporty friends and you say you’ve never had an injury they’ll most likely think you don’t work hard enough.
I’ve had my fair share of issues in the past. Orienteering is by its very nature the kind of sport that generates injuries.
I’ve fallen more times than I can count. I’ve been stuck in marshes – yes literally stuck. I’ve had to be pulled out by kindly runners taking pity and yanking me out. I once fell through a wooden stile ladder over a dry stone wall that was made specifically for an orienteering competition in Yorkshire. It wasn’t made of very strong wood, several people had been over it before me, and I was the straw that broke the stile’s back. A rung shattered as I was descending. On that occasion I could quite easily have broken my leg, but ‘just’ ended up with a massive bruise all the way up from knee to thigh, some muscle tearing and plenty of accompanying pain. On another occasion I tripped and landed, thigh first, on a fallen tree, resulting in muscle damage that made it really difficult to walk for a few days.
Then there was the time I fell forwards down a stony track, landing on my knees and sliding a few feet, giving myself whiplash. I once fell on stony ground resulting in a flap of skin as large as a 50p piece hanging off one knee. Later, cleaning the injury in the bath and wondering whether I’d need stitches to get the skin flap to stick back in place, I started to pull at what I thought was some grit, only to realise (and this churns my stomach even now), that I was actually pulling at a vein.
I’ve been hit in the face by branches that sometimes, but surprisingly rarely, draw blood. I’ve had splinters in my head (you generally only notice these in the shower while washing your hair), and earlier this year I ‘acquired’ an inch long splinter in my left little finger. On reflection, splinter might not be the right word for it. I’ve fallen over countless tree stumps, slipped and slid on untold amounts of mud and mush, been torn by brambles and gorse bushes and had more bruises and scrapes than I could possible remember. (I’ve also found a couple of ticks about my person but ticks have no place in an article about injuries so I’ll let that pass).
Some of these injuries and mishaps put me out of action for a while, others I just wash clean and forget about, but I’m not complaining either way. I’m not especially accident prone and these kinds of scrapes are par for the course for orienteering. It’s a rough old sport and it requires a certain ‘devil may care’ mentality.
The injuries that really annoy me are those sustained while doing training runs. Like the one I acquired three weeks ago.
Out for a night-time run, a head torch saw me through some common land near home that I was not familiar with. It was slow going along narrow paths and a bit wet and muddy in places, but I stayed upright. Then, on a tarmac track I know very well, not 300 metres from my front door, disaster struck. I fell, ripping a hole in a knee and very badly spraining my left ankle. I valiantly tried to jog the rest of the way home, but it was too painful.
Rest, ice, compression and elevation were all applied and continued to be applied over the next few days, but it soon became apparent that I would be out of action for a little while. Three weeks on I am still intermittently wearing an ankle support and can experience pain. I’d like to think I will be ready for a run in a few days, but I’ve been saying that for a week now.
So how will I know when it is OK get back on the treadmill?
I’ve been too keen to get back into the swing of things in the past, and started back into running before I’ve been fully healed. I don’t want that to happen this time, but every day without a run is a day of lost fitness – and a day of increased annoyance. Only a runner – and someone close to a runner – knows how ratty we can get if we’re prevented from our time pounding the pavements, slogging up hills and striding out on grass.
So here’s the plan (It is the same plan I had last week but this time I am willing a different outcome). Tomorrow – or the next day – I will get out for a very short jog (not run) on the flattest bit of ground I can find. If that goes OK I will up the distance and time but keep the terrain flat. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it round a race I’ve been waiting for all year in Brighton. I’ll be slow and uncompetitive, and may even need to retire, but I do hope to at least get to the starting line.
Of course that might prove to be too much too soon, but I’m determined to get back on the treadmill and that first short run will tell me if it’s possible now, or if I have to wait yet another week.