2017 was a bit of a flop for me.
Everybody warned me about the post-adventure blues when I finished the coast, back in August 2016, but I guess I didn’t think they would happen to me. I was happy to be finished, ready to be living normal life again, to have friends and my own bed and a job that paid me each month. And when they did come, it wasn’t in the way I expected. It wasn’t a big, crashing low – instead it was motivation slipping away, negativity creeping in, a fog slowly descending. Nothing felt exciting anymore. I was frustrated at my waning fitness, by not being able to run 30 miles at the drop of a hat anymore, but equally I couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it. I would sporadically try and run a long way, just to prove I still could. Inevitably it would hurt a lot and result in a few weeks on the sofa eating too many raspberry Magnums*.
It wasn’t completely terrible though. I guess you get used to feeling in a bit of a fog, to not really being very excited about anything. And it turns out that when you aren’t running or adventuring or, frankly, doing anything productive at all, you have a lot of free time. I spent most of that free time in the pub. There was a lot of beer involved – so much so that we coined ‘Wet July’, the antithesis of Dry January. It was fun, sure, but also wholly unfulfilling. Occasionally I would go and speak at events and I felt like a fraud standing on stage talking all about how amazing it was to complete a big adventure, to give something incomprehensibly huge a try and then not quit on yourself. Since crossing the finish line I had completely and utterly quit on myself, given up on everything that I had set off around the country in order to pursue.
In September I started a new job working on active travel projects for schools. I actually cared about what I was doing at last, I stopped crying at work, started running again and the fog lifted a little. I went to Devon for a few days to run some of my favourite stretches of coast path and then set aside a weekend to finally start working on the book that I kept telling everybody I was working on but, in reality, hadn’t been writing at all. Things were looking up – then I ran a half marathon through a vineyard dressed as a fried egg and crossed the finish line to realise I couldn’t really walk.
When I was still limping a week later I forked out £90 to see a sports physio who told me I had a swollen tiabialis anterior muscle and gave me some exercises to do. A month on it was still no better and I found myself at the St Thomas’s fracture clinic being told my shin bone was weird and thick (scientific term) and that I either had a stress fracture already or was about to get one. The advice was to give up running and play chess instead, ad infinitum.
Back to the sofa. Back to the multi-packs of Magnums.
I think that we can safely say that I didn’t deal with being injured very well. My mum, my flatmate and basically anybody else I came into contact with between September and December can probably testify to this. Rumour has it that I might have been a bit grumpy. I finally wanted to run again and I couldn’t. I couldn’t ride my bike either, which meant a horrible and expensive commute every day. I clocked up three DNS’s over the autumn, including abandoning my dad to tackle alone the ultra I had convinced him it would be great fun to run together. (Without me slowing him down he absolutely smashed it, of course.) I watched along grumpily as my entire social media feed seemed to be having fun outside while I remained on the sofa with the Magnums. It was all very first-world-problems but that didn’t make it any more fun.
Then came a glorious morning in late November. I was working from home and the sun was out and I realised that I hadn’t felt my shin for a while. I jogged up and down the hallway a bit and I still couldn’t feel it. At lunchtime I pulled on my running kit and ran two miles around Battersea Park. It didn’t hurt! I could run again!
That was two months ago now and, aside from the week where I was sidelined by the flu (I missed Christmas dinner, it was very upsetting) I’ve been running regularly since. It’s been great. I’ve enlisted the help of a running coach to incorporate some strength work into my training and hopefully prevent a repeat of #injurygate. I’m trying to build up slowly and not be an idiot, with the goal of being in alright shape for Manchester Marathon in April. (At least, I was building up slowly until I got a bit carried away on the Grand Union Canal last week and ran 80 miles in five days… Oops.)
I don’t feel foggy anymore. Every time I go out running I am genuinely grateful for my fully-functioning limbs and running feels really, really, really fun again. There’s a lot to be excited about in 2018 – and I haven’t eaten a single Magnum yet this year. Or taken up chess.
*It has come to light that not everybody knows what a Magnum is. That’s probably a good sign for your general health but, in case you wish to be enlightened, it’s a type of ice cream. Double raspberry is my favourite flavour. Not adviseable to eat by the multipack.