Hello! I’m Rachel, the founder of Running Cards UK, and I am now the self-titled Perpetually Injured Runner. It’s taken me a few years to admit that I am always (well, it feels like always) injured. In truth, the cycle of events is usually a short period of glorious, pain-free running, then a niggle appears, then it gets a bit worse, then I spend weeks, months, and in one case, years trying to shake off the problem.
This blog is my letter to all those injured runners out there, you are not alone, and you will get better. You may even get injured again, in fact, statistically, there is a rather high chance of that happening, but we’re not thinking about that.
I haven’t had a PB for six years, I haven’t been anywhere close, but I live in hope. In truth, it’s the journey to get there that I enjoy the most. As I get older, those faster times are slipping away, potentially forever. On the plus side, I can still enjoy an improved age grading at parkrun.
My running friends and even my non-running friends will often ask me what my current injury is – it’s a running joke (excuse the pun!) Recently, I was asked how many injuries I’d had over the years and I really wasn’t sure. Some injuries are minor, they come and go without reason, but some are truly monumental, and they can be frustrating, unpredictable and sometimes rather upsetting.
My current injury is in the hip area. I have been diagnosed with a grade 2 tear in my left gluteus medius. The gluteus medius is a muscle that sits just above the gluteus maximus, the big glute muscle in our buttocks, and just below the lower back. However, my new (and so far, seemingly excellent) sports doctor believes the tear might not actually be the issue – grade 2 isn’t too severe – and that the problem might actually be with my TFL. That’s an abbreviation of tensor fascia lata. (Not Transport for London, although my fellow Londoners will be mildly amused). The TFL is a muscle that connects to the IT band. Many runners will be familiar with the ITB (iliotibial band) that runs down the outside of each leg, as it often gets tight after running. The TFL connects the ITB to the hip, at which point is pretty much where I’m feeling pain.
But less of the technical stuff and more of what this injury actually feels like. It started as a slight stiffness and ache in the side of my left hip, an hour or so after I’d come back from a run. Then it carried onto the next day. So, I took a week off running and it disappeared. Hurrah, I didn’t have my usual bad luck. I hoped that maybe, just maybe, I’d rested just long enough, at just the right time and it had been nothing but a minor niggle.
However, of course, you already know that this wasn’t the end of it. I had two magnificent weeks of care-free running and then the ache returned. I rested again but it wasn’t enough. Then on one enjoyable club run it started hurting half-way through the run. I did what many of us have no doubt done before, I ignored it, kept running, kept chatting with my club mates, but sloped off home knowing it would probably be my last run for a while. And it was.
I have since been able to run a few easy 5ks and they are usually pain free. Although I feel it afterwards and sometimes the next day. But don’t worry, this is under instruction from both sports doctor and physio. It won’t make it worse, there is a treatment and rehab plan underway - more on that soon, it’s unusual, different to anything I’ve done before.
As a perpetually injured runner, I certainly can’t claim to know very much about avoiding injuries, nor do I have any professional medical qualifications. But I can share my experiences, good and bad about the various injuries I’ve had and, as a CiRF Running Coach, I can speak about good training practices. I don’t always follow my own advice though!
My current goal is to start training in June for the October London Marathon. I write my own bespoke training plans and the plan I have written is very hopeful; it assumes that when I start training in June, I will have a solid base of running already in my legs. This is becoming increasingly unlikely but I’m trying to stay positive. The clock is ticking. 12 weeks to go…
This blog will chart my journey to London 2022, and maybe beyond. Will I get over this current injury? Will I get a new one? Will I even make the start line? Or maybe I’ll even get close to my PB? Thanks for reading, watch this space for future updates on all the ups, aches and downs. It’s going to be a ride, one way or the other.