My doctor is French. I had been to see him for an asthma check up in 2010, and he was kind enough to tell me “you’re too old to be this fat. Lose weight.” A trick he learned no doubt at some European charm finishing school. Though I could feel it in my clothes, I couldn’t really see it in the mirror. But photos were another matter. One photo appeared on Facebook where I knew I was in the picture but I couldn’t actually find myself. This, the doctor’s visit, and the red marks being left behind by my jeans on my waistband suggested I needed to change a little.
I started walking, but even then, and even through my devout love of walking, I knew that what I was really doing was getting myself used to being in motion so I could start running again (shhhh…. don’t say it out loud). I figured that if I could walk 20 miles, then surely, with appropriate training, I could run 10, or 12, or even, whisper it the 13.1 (shhhhh… shhhhh…) of a half-marathon.
I started running again – I think just a few hundred yards, very slowly – in June 2010. I was not training for anything; I had put away for good my ambition of running the London Marathon (that ended in an ITBS disaster in 2004, but it was OK because I didn’t get through the Marathon ballot, anyway). This time, I was going to build up my mileage slowly, very slowly. This is why by late August of that year I was only running a 15 mile week. I was running 4 times a week thinking that frequency was better for the body – and it is certainly better than heading out twice a week to do 8 miles to hit your weekly mileage. Already though, twinges of pain were coming back. My left knee was starting to stiffen on the longer (for me at the time, 5-6 mile) runs.
|The Knavesmire – the day of the run|
I had gone to visit my lovely sister in York, and in her gorgeous kitchen, eating my breakfast by her Aga, the paper was open on the table. It had one of those ‘get fit for summer’ articles on running, and in it, it mentioned running with good form. ‘Runners should land softly on their forefoot’, it said – or something very like. This wasn’t news to me. I knew that distance runners do this. But I thought that distance runners do this. I didn’t think it was for muggles. My sister and I had planned to head out for a little run on the Knavesmire (a large area where they hold horse racing – it was where York also used to hold its public hangings; I think Dick Turpin was hanged there). It’s about 2 and a bit miles all the way round. So we went out, took Lily the dog (who had a lovely time), and I tried running to land on my forefoot. It was easy, a cinch, I had taken candy from a baby only that morning, and it was even easier than that. I felt so good that after the first circuit, Erika (my sister) headed back with Lily, and I decided to go round again. But, thinking I was being wise and learned in my endeavour, I decided to do the second circuit running as I would normally run. Lovely, great, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Euphoria. Life. Beauty.
|Lily – Chillin’ by the Aga|
The next day, I couldn’t walk.