In early January I wrote on this blog that one of my goals for 2017 was to run an ultra marathon. Now, I have never actually run a marathon but I was regularly running in the last 3 months of 2016, including a 15km circuit (mostly off road) so... why not?
I thought it would be a good challenge to give myself 6 months to get in the kind of shape that would allow me to run (and probably walk a bit) a course of 74 km (46 miles).
I have no pretensions as to the time it may take me. This doesn't interest the “new” me. It is more about the mental and physical test of completing such a challenge, and in all honesty the journey that would get me there, that intrigues me. Maybe I am crazy but in my naivety it seems eminently possible.
Whilst I still harbour this ambition and indeed this intent, January has thrown a spanner in the works. In November and December I started sporadically suffering from pain in the outside of my right knee when running. It used to start around 7km and was worse on tarmac. Like many a foolish, doctor-shy Englishman I decided to self diagnose.
A quick google search led me to link this pain with a long standing and sporadic pain in my right hip. The internet told me to stand on my right leg, raising the left one off the ground, and see if my left hip drops. It did, so I concluded that I have a weak Gluteus Medeus causing inflammation of the Iliotibial band. The internet then informed me that his “lurch” is known as Trendelenberg gait.
Here’s what Wikipedia says:
The Trendelenburg gait pattern (or gluteus medius lurch) is an abnormal gait (as with walking) caused by weakness of the abductor muscles of the lower limb, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. People with a lesion of superior gluteal nerve have weakness of abducting the thigh at the hip.
Fortunately there are strengthening exercises one can do to remedy this weakness. I started doing side lying leg raises on a daily basis and sure enough it wasn’t long before this, coupled with my more regular gym sessions including plenty of stretching, seemed to alleviate my hip pain and I no longer felt the pain in my right knee. If I needed further proof of my being on the mend the lurch in my hip was greatly reduced.
So all’s well that ends well.
Accept when it doesn’t, that is.
3 weeks ago on the treadmill, half way through a 10km cardio session I developed the same pain in my left knee. I ran through the pain, which was a mistake. A week or so later, feeling rested I tried a simple treadmill warm up and the pain started after a couple of kilometres. It made me angry. Angry at my pig-headiness and my stupid body. Angry at it's limitations. Frustrated at my age and the lost spring of youth. I abandoned the session.
Later that evening my self diagnosis (this time without the help of the internet) led me to conclude that I now had an imbalance in favour of the right side, because of my strength work to alleviate the 'Trendy-leg-burn Gait' I had recently discovered. Seems legit', right? All I had to do was perform the exact same strength work for both sides of my body - pretty obvious really!
A couple of glasses of single malt later (or a dose of reason as I like to call it) and I realised that it might be best to seek professional help. So I haven’t run since and tomorrow I am going to the Sports Injury Clinic in Fordham, Cambridge, to have a biometric assessment of my running. Depending on the upshot of that I will be seeking further professional advice.
The internet may give quick and easy answers (who knows, they might even be right) but 5 months is a short time and I am too old to leave it to chance. One way or another I am doing an ultra-marathon.