After discovering I had stress-fractured my pelvis during the London Marathon, there was nothing much I could do to help it heal other than rest. Even swimming hurt, so I bought a pull buoy to help my legs to float, and swam arms-only two or three times a week. I minimised even walking for nearly the first five weeks, and didn’t try cycling during the same period.
My patience and good behaviour was rewarded when the x-ray at six and a half weeks showed good healing: callus formation not only on the inferior pubic ramus where there had been a visible fracture line originally, but also on the superior pubic ramus, at the point where I’d felt point pain after the marathon – which explained that pain.
The orthopaedic surgeon cleared me to start running, aiming to return to “a normal amount of running” (not a normal amount for ultrarunning!) over a period of 4-6 weeks. Taking a conservative approach, I first jogged 200 yards gently, barefoot, around the cricket pitch at my running club (nice soft ground, short grass) at 7.5 weeks and only tried a similar five minute barefoot jog on grass that weekend, eight weeks post injury. Over the next eight weeks I very gradually increased my running, to 10 then 15 minutes gentle jogging barefoot on grass, then moving to a 30-minute jog-walk schedule (e.g. seven minutes jog, three walk, x3) before finally reaching 30 minutes of running, then 40, then an hour.
Three runs were particular milestones in my return to running. The first was that initial barefoot jog. The second, seven weeks after re-starting, was running Heaton parkrun while visiting family in Manchester. For the first time, I pushed myself to run faster, not taking my run so easy, and I finished in under 26 minutes (still some way off my PB). More importantly, I was without pain both during and after that faster running.
Then this last weekend I cycled over to the Sandilands clubhouse for the Striders of Croydon Sunday run. Our standard trail run is one that I have literally dreamed about running, both during the period when I was recovering with my broken ankle and more recently with the pelvic stress fracture. The initial section takes us through Lloyd Park, then along Oaks Lane, across Oaks Road and into Addington Hills. Emerging from the woods near the Coombe Road tram stop, it’s a short section on road to Bramble Bank, a lovely undulating section of trail (but watch out for the tree roots!). Then onwards, with several sections of great running, uphill, on the flat and down, on narrow and wide woodland trails through Selsdon Wood Nature Reserve, as well as a testing uphill stretch along Old Farleigh Road before another off-road section through Croham Hurst.
I love that run, all of it, even, in a perverse way, the push up Old Farleigh Road, but in particular the trail sections.
On Sunday the whole run was amazing. I could feel my whole running form changing, becoming both more relaxed and stronger, compared to running on the road or on grass in open parks. On the final woodland downhill stretch I was flying, legs stretching, heart pumping, and a wide grin on my face that kept returning for hours afterwards.
Ninety minutes, nine miles. Still a lot of training to do to get back up to decent distances, but now I can really, truly say that I’m RUNNING again!