I can’t help but feeling like I was robbed of a PB at the Great Scottish Run on Sunday. Not as a result of any great misfortune or anything even remotely dramatic on the day, but as a result of the injury that has plagued me these past 5 weeks. The first signs of problems came 8 weeks ago while on holiday in the Cairngorms. The calf muscles on both legs tightened to the point where running was extremely painful and, even after a deep tissue massage resulted in a return to some degree of normalcy, there was clearly an ongoing niggle with my right leg.
This niggle increasingly became an issue and, over the past 5 weeks, impacted considerably on my ability to train according to the schedule provided by Hayley from The Running Bug. In particular, I was finding it difficult to string together anything bordering on consistent mileage and most runs ended up as fartlek sessions. Perhaps more annoying was that my pace was starting to show the benefits of earlier interval and progressive run sessions. The potential for a PB was evident when the legs let me push on, but was unfortunately tapered by the pain that then restricted me to a slow jog or even brought me to a standstill on occasion.
Thankfully, the cause of the problem was identified early on, on my trip to see Keith Allen-Shirtcliffe at Witty, Pask & Buckingham Chartered Physiotherapists, part of the support package provided to me by The Running Bug and PUMA. I’ve covered the problem, essentially a relative glute weakness, before in a previous blog post (PUMA PB Challenge 3 Weeks And Counting) so I won’t go into that again here. Suffice to say that, despite identifying the glute issue and working to remedy it, the increased effort of trying to work on a fundamentally flawed running form, combined with attempts to improve my overall pace through a variety of different training sessions, appeared to aggravate the issue.
The Running Bug helped provide local physio help, in the form of Iona at SPEAR Physiotherapy in Aberdeen Sports Village. Without any prior knowledge of Keith’s findings, Iona quickly identified the same relative glute weakness and attributed the problems with my right leg to this. As mentioned in the aforementioned blog post, the problem wasn’t just restricted to non ‘firing’ glutes. On top of this, there was also a muscular imbalance with, for some reason, the left glute being particularly weak. I’m slowly learning just how interconnected the body is and this left glute imbalance appears to be responsible for the issues with the right leg.
As the date of the Great Scottish Run approached, I was becoming increasingly despondent. Training just wasn’t happening in the way that it should. Iona did, however, offer some hope. Taping my right calf with kinesiology tape made the pain bearable and, following that appointment, I had my best run in weeks. The problem is a long term issue, one that I am continuing to work on and will, no doubt, be working on for some time to come. However, with the Great Scottish Run looming, the tape offered the potential for me to at least give the PB Challenge my best shot.
With the race almost upon us, my main concern other than pain management was being able to maintain the pace required to see me through to the finish line, hopefully with a PB. In the past, I’ve only ever run at one speed so it has rarely been an issue. However, with the introduction of speed work into my training, I often found it difficult to get the pace of my long slow runs right. Quite often I would go out too fast and suffer the consequences, easing off before repeating the same cycle! I just couldn’t help myself. With the lack of LSR sessions over the past 5 weeks as a result of the leg problems, this was of particular concern to me.
At this point, my friend Allan Bruce offered to run the Great Scottish Run with me. This was Allan’s second half marathon after a long hiatus – his first 1/2 was the Great North Run back in 2007, which he also ran with me. Back then we ran 1:59:27, a time that I should add is far more in fitting with my other 1/2 marathons than my freak 1:51:05 PB!
Allan’s gesture was particularly kind on a number of fronts. Firstly, it involved a trip for him and his family up from Newcastle. Secondly, while it was most likely going to involve a new PB for Allan as well, it was not going to be a PB that was indicative of his current running level. In offering to try and help pace me to a sub 1:51:05 time, Allan was sacrificing a PB somewhere in the 1:30:00s which he had run in training just the previous week! I should also mention that I had previously tried to recruit Allan into running ultramarathons, a temptation that I know he would have loved but one that he resisted with some ‘piffling’ excuse of ‘time constraints’ and ‘family’. Little did I realise at the time just how much of an impact a single child, let alone 2, has on anyone’s life. I’ve already eaten a large slice of humble pie on that front. Allan, once again, thank you for coming up and running with me on the day. There’s no doubt that you kept me going at the pace that I did. I owe you big style.
The Great Scottish Run was quite an event, considerably different to the relatively low key ultramarathons that have been the focus of my attention these past few years. It certainly was great. Crowds lined the streets, offering vocal support to all the runners, people in cars honked their horns, and the route included many of the sights of central Glasgow. The legendary Haile Gebrselassie, now in his 40s, won the event with a new Scottish All-Comers’ half marathon record of 1:01:09.
Taped up and having taken painkillers to try and mask the expected pain, I met up with Allan and we patiently waited amongst the mass of runners for the start of the race. I was fortunate on the day. The leg didn’t overly trouble me and I was able to push on. The lack of long slow runs started to show around the 9 mile mark and a drop in pace around miles 11 and 12 put paid to my hopes of a PB. However, I fared much better than I expected to considering the lack of routine training in the run up to the event.
We finally crossed the line in a time of 1:52:50, not too far adrift of the PB time of 1:51:05. I somehow managed to run 13.87 miles according to my Suunto Ambit. There’s a lesson to be learnt. I really should work on picking the best racing line. Admittedly however, it’s not always that easy to pick your line when surrounded by quite so many runners!
As gutted as I am not to have smashed my PB, I really can’t help but be happy with how things went on the day. It’s by far the best that I have run in years and I did it while injured and on the back of weeks of injury. Despite the setbacks, I managed to increase my pace significantly and take at least 8 minutes off of the time that I would have run the 1/2 marathon in back at the start of the PB Challenge.
I was 3432 out of 8902 runners, 2867th male and 566th in my age group (40-44).
- 6:47 !!!
- 8:52 :o(
- 8:50 :o(
Technically, this is the end of my PUMA PB Challenge. However, it’s also the beginning of the next stage of my running. Over the past few months I have been fortunate enough to benefit from training, physio & nutritional support as well as general support from everyone at The Running Bug, PUMA and, via the forums & Bug Miles, the support of my fellow Bugs. It has been brilliant.
Back towards the beginning of the year, the running fitness accrued over 3 years of running ultramarathons was all but gone, my weight had ballooned, and my running mojo had deserted me. It would have taken me at least 2 hours to run a half marathon.
Today, despite missing the PB, my running mojo is well and truly back. My weight has decreased considerably, thanks in part to eating more, and I now have an array of healthy snack options to supplement my diet throughout the day. I am working on improving the muscular imbalances and flawed running form identified by the physios, which should strengthen the body and hopefully help to avert future injury. I have a far greater appreciation of the different training sessions and the role that these play when coming together to form a comprehensive program for improvement.
This weekend I almost turned the clock back to 2008 when I ran the Moray 1/2 Marathon in 1:51:05 and, looking back over the past few months with everything that has happened, there’s no way that I can really consider my PB Challenge to be a failure. I am determined to resolve the issues that prevented me from smashing that 1:51:05 PB and, along the way, to set new PBs at 5k, 10k and 1/2 marathon distances. I have actually enjoyed running faster, pushing my limits not so much in terms of distance but in terms of pace. What’s more, I have definitely found a challenge that is more in fitting with my current family needs than ultramarathons.
I reckon there’s definitely scope for improvement, to smash the 1:51:00 PB and, indeed, to aim higher. After a couple of days off to recover from the Great Scottish Run, I will once again be diving back into my 1/2 marathon training plan, stepping back 5 weeks so that I can pick up where things started to really go wrong for me. Hopefully this time around, with the knowledge that taping helps alleviate the pain, and with my efforts to resolve the muscular and form issues, the ‘missing’ 5 weeks will go a lot better. This will hopefully then set me up for another crack at my PB, at the Fraserburgh 1/2 marathon in November.
Finally, I just want to say thanks to the following people:
- The Running Bug & PUMA, for selecting me for the PB Challenge and for providing so much support.
- Hayley Munn from The Running Bug, for the excellent training plans, advice and support.
- Neil Tillot & James Knock from The Running Bug, for the support along the way.
- Sarah Duffield from Mac Nutrition (www.Mac-Nutrition.com), for showing me that I needed to eat more to lose weight and to fuel my training properly.
- Keith Allen-Shirtcliffe at Witty, Pask & Buckingham Chartered Physiotherapists (http://www.wpbphysio.co.uk/) and Iona at SPEAR Physiotherapy (http://www.spearphysiotherapy.co.uk/) at Aberdeen Sports Village (http://www.aberdeensportsvillage.com/), for identifying muscular & form issues and trying to help me address them.
- All my fellow Running Bugs, and especially to those of you who joined me on the 1/2 Marathon PUMA PB Challenge, for their words of support along the way.
- Thanks to Sandra, John, Gemma, Diane and, of course, my wife Leanne and son Harris, for coming to the Great Scottish Run to support me.
Happy Running :o)