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Stuck in an injury rut? It’s time to be thankful.

It’s been a while since I wrote my last blog. I left it so long as I wasn’t sure what to write. Back in November I was offered and happily accepted an unexpected golden ticket; a London Marathon place for April 2024. Unsurprisingly for me I had a bit of an injury at the time, but it seemed to be improving and I’d just had shock wave therapy, so I was feeling positive about my running future.


But with my injury history I should have known that things are never that simple. In December I wrote myself a realistic training plan and was looking forward to slowly building up the mileage. But the dodgy knee was remaining dodgy. At the end of January I ran a slow 10k in New Orleans whilst on a work trip and not only was it difficult from my lack of training, but my knee was also quite sore. The following day I was even limping a little.


Even though I realised by this point that my 2024 marathon dream was probably over, I booked myself in for a PRP injection. Even if I wasn’t running the marathon, I still wanted the knee fixed as the low mileage, knee taping and thrice-weekly strengthening gym sessions were delivering hardly any signs of improvement.


I’ve had a PRP injection before, in my foot to treat plantar fasciitis, and it did seem to work so I was feeling very positive about having it in my knee. PRP stands for platelet rich plasma, and I’ve written in a previous blog about how it works and how it can help injuries. It’s very safe and not steroid based. The main downsides are the two weeks enforced rest after the injection and, of course, the actual pain and discomfort from the injection itself. But as I’d had PRP before, I wasn’t worried about either of those things.


I booked the appointment towards the end of a working day at a clinic in the middle of the City of London. I knew it would be painful but also knew it would only last a few minutes and I decided that it would be worth it. The radiologist said he could give me a local aesthetic, but it would be better if I could manage without. Obviously I wanted to give it the best chance of working so I declined the aesthetic and sat back as he injected a very big needle into the side of my knee. It was fine, hardly any pain at all. Phew. Then he pressed down on the syringe and the fluid rapidly entered my injured patella tendon. Wow. Hell pain. I didn’t remember it hurting that much last time! I suspect I deliberately let myself forget that bit. There was no going back now.


After a few sweaty minutes where I was breathing heavily and frantically gripping the sides of hospital bed, the procedure was over. As a smiling radiologist skipped out of the room and onto his next victim, I hobbled out of the room feeling nauseous and light-headed. I could walk but only extremely slowly, and I was miles from home. I started wondering how on earth I was going to get back and how was I going to do so without throwing up. I sat for a while until the light-headedness subsided and steeled myself for the long, slow walk to the nearest Tube station. The first thing I noticed was how so many people were rushing past me. Often banging into me. I was unsteady on my feet and could only manage small, very slow steps.


Luckily I ended up at a station with step-free access so I didn’t have to struggle up any stairs, but the long walkways and platforms suddenly became almost as daunting as a running marathon with no training. Getting on and off not one but three moving escalators was treacherous. When I finally stepped onto a train I boldly announced, “I’ve just had minor surgery on my knee, and I need a seat.” Immediately the nearest person jumped straight up and let me sit down. Gratefully, I said “thank you” but he’d already moved on, seemingly with no thanks required. I got a glance of my reflection in the window and my complexion was as grey as that day’s cold February clouds.


Of course, I eventually made it home and recovered from the injection. It took a couple of days for me to be able to walk normally, and just over two weeks later I tried running again for the first time at parkrun. The familiar pain under my kneecap was still there. I was hugely disappointed but still hopeful. The PRP injection can produce results within days, but it can often take weeks.


It’s now early April and seven weeks after the PRP injection and it’s stalemate. I can run a little and the pain is bearable. But I can’t run too hard, or up hills or further than around 5k. If I do the pain increases. The physio thinks there is some improvement, but I’ve recently hit the one-year anniversary since I started suffering with this injury and I am feeling gloomy. Reluctantly, because there is no denying it’s impossible to even consider doing the marathon, I’ve applied to defer my London Marathon place until next year. Although it’s extremely disappointing it’s also a bit of a relief.


Sometimes it feels like I am forever doing physio prescribed exercises three times a week in the gym, and parkwalking more frequently than I am parkrunning. But whilst I still harbour a strong desire to run another marathon I am reminded of that day when I had to make a 12-mile journey by public transport, in pain and hardly able to walk. I felt weak and vulnerable. It was challenging, extremely slow and at times a little scary. There are thousands of people who must navigate public transport every day who aren’t as mobile as I usually am. For a couple of hours, I experienced something I do all the time from a completely different perspective. It was humbling and enlightening.


So, for the time being I’m counting my lucky stars that I have many great running memories to be thankful for. And also, that (hopefully!) the London Marathon will allow me to defer my place to 2025. I have nine months to get injury free and then start a training plan. So, watch this space.

Thanks for reading and happy running.

 

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Best of luck Rachel. Injuries are the hardest part about this running business, you do so well to stay so positive when it's such a slog. You will run an excellent marathon when you get the chance again, so much mental grit!

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Thanks so much. I like the idea of running an excellent marathon due to mental grit! Although I think the last one was like that. Fingers crossed.

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