In December 2009 I experienced my first fitness setback. A sharp, awful pain in my left hip. I got out of bed one morning and found myself stuck, just holding on to the windowsill. It eased, and I drove to work. Or halfway to work, before pulling over into a car park, in tears of pain, ringing my boss and telling her I couldn’t come in.
I went to the doctor. No help. I went to my mum’s osteopath, who managed to ease the pain.
I started my fitness routine again. But the pain kept coming back. Every few months it would get too bad to continue, and it turned from just a sharp nerve pain to tingling in my leg. The doctor insisted it could be a tumour and I needed an x-ray. Thanks for that. That didn’t have me worried, panicked and crying at the drop of a hat for weeks. Yes, I’d have preferred if she had just not mentioned ‘tumour’ at all. The x-ray showed nothing. The same doctor gave me the results, suggested I stop doing the things that aggravated the pain, take ibuprofen and paracetamol, and perhaps try carrying my handbag on the other shoulder. Needless to say, I never went to see her again. I also lost hope that I’d get any help for my pain, so I came to the very sad conclusion that running was not for me. I sold my treadmill, got a gym membership, carried on with my strength training and tried different forms of cardio. Slowly, other areas of my life began to eclipse my fitness routine. I was in a new relationship, my social life was busier than it had ever been, I had a new job, and before I knew it I was only exercising occasionally and my weight had crept up.
A lot of nice things happened in the next few years – my boyfriend and I rented a house together, we got two cats, went for lovely walks, drank too much, ate too much, didn’t exercise enough. Y’know.
In 2012, my boyfriend ran the London Marathon. It was sort of an accident. He’s always been a runner, and when his friend said she was training for London, he said he’d go along on her training runs to support her. He ended up with a charity place for the marathon, and I ended up with a thirst to start running again.
Being in London on the morning of the 2012 marathon was fantastic. The 5am start wasn’t great, but the atmosphere as I watched the runners, and saw my two runners pass, was just incredible. The following year, on the morning of the London Marathon, I got up early (on a Sunday!) to watch the TV coverage. My boyfriend told me that for someone who didn’t run, I was unusually interested in it.
When I finally began running again in 2014, the same problem reared its ugly little head. I hated it. I hated how slow and painful and awful running was. I went back to the doctor. I was given a referral for physio, but before the appointment arrived I was in so much pain my co-worker was offering me tramadol to make it through the day (I politely refused), and I was back to see a different doctor, who referred me for an MRI. The MRI appointment never arrived, despite my nagging. After a few more sessions with the osteopath, where I walked in like an 80-year-old and walked out like a 20-year-old, I consulted Dr Google.
Obviously, this isn’t something I would recommend, but I had had enough frustration trying to get the pain sorted, and I couldn’t keep handing over my hard-earned cash to the osteopath, lovely as she was.
It turned out to be piriformis syndrome, where the piriformis muscle in the buttock compresses or irritates the sciatic nerve. (Here’s a handy Runner’s World guide to the condition.) In my case it’s been pretty easy to remedy and manage. Hooray for strengthening, stretching, and foam rolling!
I wanted to punch everyone I saw running who didn’t look like they were dying
Even though I knew how to manage that problem, I still found it difficult to get back into running. I ran with my boyfriend, because I wasn’t confident running alone outdoors. I don’t think either of us enjoyed those trips up one side of the riverbank and down the other. Looking back at my notes on Runkeeper is somewhat depressing.
‘Better at the start than previous efforts. The second half was a bit crap.’
‘Hard. First one in a week because of knee pain. Lost pretty much all my progress again. Incredibly painful legs.’
‘Pathetic. No energy.’
‘I wanted to punch everyone I saw running who didn’t look like they were dying.’
I started that running stint in April, and in July the Runkeeper logs stop. It took me months to work up to almost a mile in one go, but I never reached that mile marker and I was too discouraged to keep going. Running wasn’t for me. Why did I ever try it? Blah, blah, blah. Pity party for one. I get so annoyed now when I think back on that time.
I think that’s just about enough! I did continue to work out sporadically, continued to wish I could run, but never managed to fully commit to the mindset I needed.
I swear my next update will be more upbeat! It’s going to be about 2015, which was an incredibly good year.