Posted on: 05 Mar 2018

In the wee hours of this past Saturday morning I was awakened with a nudge by a word.


It never had any meaning to me; I probably saw it in a book years ago (who has time to read anything anymore?!) and once I registered it odd that it was stuck in my head, I dozed back off. A few hours later, it prodded me in the other side.


Now I’m awake again, slightly perplexed, wondering what’s with this word, and why won’t it let me sleep? I sat up, took a drink of water, lay down and sparko again, but five am now: Apogee.

I’m thinking ok, Pops, is that you again, what do you want me to know about this word? And there I went back to the land of nod for a fourth time. As one would expect, I woke up less rested than planned, remembering first that I was slap bang in the middle of the five year anniversary of my final eleven days with my Dad. And then came the word. I googled it.

And it made perfect sense, really, whether it’d come from the Great Beyond or far more humbly, my own subconscious, that ‘highest point’ was Sunday’s race. That Race-I-Shouldn’t-Start-Because-I’m-Injured. That race I’m so bloody minded I decided I would start. I’d limp, I’d crawl, I’d do whatever I had to do because it was in The Plan but more importantly because it was slap bang in the middle of the five year anniversary of that last eleven days I would ever see my father alive.

I had to run. I had no choice. This one had a deeper meaning than most.

So onward later that evening to the Premier Inn Aldgate, placed so that I’d have a brisk walk to the start to oil up the creaks, armed with tennis ball and theraband and foam roller. Armed with the surprise Sainsbury’s find of those beautiful Lords of Carb-dom: soft pretzels – take two, they’re sm—no, not small at all but take two anyway. You’re RUNNING tomorrow.

Armed with a bottle of Goose Island 312. Of course I was.

Bit of dinner, a thorough throttling with all the physio tools at my disposal, kit laid out, a belting sob over those five year old memories and off again to the land of nod.

Some funky hotel sound woke me up exactly thirty minutes before I planned to get up and still I was late to leave. Still frantic I’d not get there in time to get my kit bag on the truck, but I got there, I was plenty early, in goes the bag, out comes the selfie and I trotted off to liaise with a friend from the DSA who I still can’t believe I found in that hefty crowd. Angels, angels everywhere.

Apogee at the ready, off go all the speedy people and as we shuffle down the road and over the line I get off at a surprising 5:1, thrice. I had committed the cardinal runner sin of wearing brand new trainers but the old standby Asics would not go on my heel without me wincing in pain so they were out. I found some Mizuno Wave Shadow, not terribly suited for distance but a wide open and supportive heel was just the ticket. And it paid off in those early miles. In fact, I can, hand on heart say I barely felt my injuries during the race, mostly because I rolled the everloving shizzle out of them the night before. I’d also rested for the week prior. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Recovering my rhythm after being chucked into a badly cambered tunnel at only a mile or so in, out into the air we came and still I wasn’t feeling too bad. No idea which mile was which but I remember lots of cobbled street somewhere around 5-6 which played havoc with my left forefoot for lack of cushion in the shoes. Half the back pack-ers said stuff it and mounted the pavement or walked the segment. I did a bit of both, knowing full well that half way hasn’t even begun any race.

Rounding corner after corner I kept expecting to see Tower Bridge pop up – that was the brass ring, that was what I wanted to see the most. That mythical, magical, gorgeous place, which to cross on foot in a race is among one of the biggest honours of my life.

And then before me I see the start and remember where I’d last seen that beautiful bridge. Turning left, and lo and behold would you just believe my absolute ANTHEM in preparation for this race pops into my ears…

“First things first I’mma say all the words inside my head
I’m fired up and tired of the way that things have been oh - ooo…”

And pain had and was and would continue to make me a believer for the next six miles.

I crossed that bridge and refused that walk break, none would do on that stretch, I wouldn’t sully those privileged footsteps with a pause. And I was proper gasping at the end of it but I didn’t care. Then at last a break and it took a fair bit of recovery. But the gasping was behind a magnificent grin.

And down to 3:1 now, on, off, technique doesn’t feel pretty but I’m getting it done. I’m taking the miles out one at a time but would you believe I’m about to burst and why did I pass that last portaloo? Entirely unable to keep my abs tight for this situation, there now goes the fabled left hip with its ‘remember I’m down here’ theatrics from all the favouring of the two injured spots. This was about mile 9. I remember this milestone distinctly, mostly because I was well impressed with how long I’d fended it off.

Still I wasn’t having it. Hit that walk break and I jammed my thumb into the attachment point of my glute med and wot hey, just by applying that pressure while walking it loosened. One minute gone, there I go back to the granny trot for the next three. And on and on it went. Found the next loo and had to queue a couple minutes – a pause which perhaps was more needed than I thought, and I’m dancing around like a barefoot hippie at a Grateful Dead show trying to just fend off the stiffness with a hot groove. In and out, and down the road I go.

Suddenly I realized how much the break revitalized me and the pace is picking up. Still in comes the left hip. Massage while walking, bolt on again. (And you should see the baseball sized bruise I left as a result!)  I hoiked myself up a hill around 11? miles, hit the top and spoke aloud ‘take the downhill’ remembering that lack of fear on a giant muddy path in the woods. And this hill too, I screamed down. I couldn’t feel anything more than people gawping at me like ‘how the hell do you still have that in you’ and my answer ‘because I take regular walk breaks, m’dears, it’s fab, you should try it sometime 😉’

Somewhere at the bottom of that joyful screamy hill that playlist blessed me with Led Zep’s Kashmir, which at this point provided the perfect metronome. Spectators will have seen the mad woman air drumming, grinning like a loon, and there’s me enjoying every step. My hip hurt like hell but at this point I was used to it. I’m always used to it.

I expected it. I prepared for it. I dealt with it.

I beat it.

By the time I crossed that beautiful finish line and collected my new favourite bling, I had passed a tractor, a rhino, a telephone, that giant Childline doll-person-thing (I think it’s Childline) but more importantly, the 2:45 pacer. Talk about bliss. There are no words for that particular moment. For ten half and beyond races I have tried to plan my pace and pass the pacer. Yesterday I succeeded. Injured.

What will I do when I’m not?

I picked off ‘the guy in the red hat waaaayyyyy up there…’ and 348 other people in the second half of the race. Only 20 got past me. The last mile was my second fastest. And I logged a 400 m PB.

What will I do when I’m not injured?

I have experienced that ‘apogee’. The highest point, the culmination, of me finally learning that I am no longer an impostor. I am no longer a novice. I am no longer a neophyte.

I am a runner.
I may walk a bit, but I am most certainly a runner.

Following that victory, I have decided that with only six weeks to go til Brighton the smart move is to defer my place in the trail run two weeks hence and give these injuries a chance to settle. I’ve mapped out a preliminary plan and seeing physio on Friday to prod and iron out the rest. In the meantime, walking, strength training and a bit of stationary cycling (that doesn’t seem to hurt anything where the rowing did) will fill in the blanks. I am confident this is the right move and that it will pay off.

Running coach says I’m definitely strong enough for Brighton, just need to get pain free. I believe him, I’m working on it and I will.

Because I’m a BUZZER that’s why.

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