I haven’t blogged for a while because i’ve been struggling a lot with running or rather not being able to run (without pain).
I started my marathon training plan on 29 December 2014. It was first time that I had ever seriously decided to follow a marathon training plan (despite having run 5 marathons) and I had/have a running coach for the first time so was determined to follow it. It was really tough at first as I was really struggling with running with my asthma in the cold weather. I was prescribed the next level of inhaler for my asthma and things finally started improving. The first 4 weeks of my marathon training plan went really well, I was so proud to be completing all the runs on the plan.
I remember distinctly the point when I hurt my hip, I was running a track session on a FREEZING COLD evening in January. The session was 6 x 1 mile at 5K PB pace and followed by 10 x 200m at 5K PB pace. It was a hard session and I didn’t think I could do it before I started but with the encouragement of my coach (who literally ended up with ice all over him it was that cold) I made it through the 1 mile reps and enthusiastically started on the 200m reps which were mentally so much easier for me. I didn’t really look at my watch for them but knowing me they could well have been run at faster than 5K PB pace. I didn’t get to 10 though, after 6 my coach said I should stop as I was limping. I wasn’t in pain but my hip felt a bit weird. I thought maybe i’d strained it and it would resolve the next day.
It didn’t resolve the next day and I continued running on it. I had never followed a training plan before and I was following one now and I didn’t want to stop. I ran on it at least 5 further times until a Saturday long run when I was forced to abort the run because my hip was hurting so much that I had slowed down to like 11/12 minute mile pace (after 4 miles). It was a good decision because by the time I got home I couldn’t really even put weight on my hip.
My coach and I discussed this setback and we decided that rest was essential, I rested for almost 2 weeks and then ran the Great Bentley Half Marathon. My hip was painful the morning we left but actually I had quite a good race (in terms of pain) and I wasn’t that far off (about 6 minutes) from my then half marathon PB. It was during this race that I discovered if I ran faster my hip didn’t hurt as much but running slower than 9:30 m/m really really hurt my hip.
My coach and I once again decided that I would take things more easily, more rest, no track sessions and no prescribed paces to hit during training runs. I was to run to feel.
After more rest, I ran the Bramley 20, I ran out too fast 8m/m and paid for it in the second half but I did it. My hip hurt but it wasn’t excruciating. However, I was woken out of sleep that night because my hip was really really painful and I couldn’t go back to sleep until I had taken painkillers.
As i’ve mentioned before, my coach has been so amazing and has been on top of every little thing that has happened to me. We discussed the outcome of the Bramley 20 and decided that I should be careful.
I ran a few long runs with friends from the Eagles, unfortunately the same story, my hip would usually be fine up to a certain point (or rather manageable) then get progressively more painful and I would have to curtail the length of runs.
The most frustrating thing about this was that I actually otherwise felt really fit! As the weather warmed up my asthma had improved so much! The day before the Finchley 20 I was advised by my coach to take it easy in Parkrun. I decided to just focus on lifting my knees up but took it so easy being careful not to run full out and I ran a 5K PB ( not that mine was very good beforehand but still). Unfortunately, the Finchley 20 was not a success story, after 1 mile my hip just started hurting so much I literally slowed down more and more every single mile. Not because I’d run out at an unsustainable pace but more because the pain became more and more unbearable.
Its actually quite upsetting for me to even write this because knowing the final outcome i’m not sure that what I went through was really worth it.
I should say that by this stage I had been seeing a physio – two physios. I had a lot of faith in one of them and less faith in the other. Both agreed that I had hip joint pain which is a lot rarer and potentially harder to fix than the more common ITB/Glute/Hip Flexor pain. Neither of them provided me with an any diagnosis as to what was wrong with me. I should say that I was trying everything to get better, I ended up doing at least 30 minutes of hip exercises every single day. It didn’t make things any better. Because of the severity of the pain and my history of stress fractures in my shins I was given a MRI to rule out a stress fracture in my hip. It came back clear, that was my green light to keep running. However, it had got to the stage where both physios were questioning with one voice whether the marathon was really a sensible idea.
The next major event was the Reading Half, it was non-negotiable for me. As I mentioned, it was my sister’s first HM and she was running for my Grandma. I would have done it if I had had to walk the entire way. Instead, I ended up with a PB. However, it took sheer determination for me to achieve that as my hip was extremely painful. I keep myself going by telling myself that if I proved to myself that I could run a PB, I wasn’t going to run Manchester as it wasn’t right for things to hurt so much. I also felt that if i didn’t have the crippling hip pain I could have run it so much faster – well maybe a couple of minutes faster at least.
Anyway, I rested after Reading for about a week, at which point I met my physio for a track session the plan was that he would analyse my running form and see whether there were any serious issues there. We did 600s and my hip was hurting – but I wanted to impress him (he used to work with Kelly Holmes after all) so I ran as fast as I could. I paid for it. I couldn’t sleep that night as I was in so much pain.
I should also say that my hip had been hurting all of the time, not just when running (I could have dealt with that) but walking, sitting at my desk etc. Being woken up at night had become unbearable when I was having to also work terrible hours at work. I was also finding everyday activities really painful. It was time to seriously stop. I couldn’t take it anymore. I also disliked the fact that if I am honest running was no longer enjoyable.
This was on the 26 March. Once again, there were many discussions behind the scenes with my coach. I was so worried about letting him down as he had worked so hard with me. However, he was amazingly understanding and made 100% clear to me that I was not letting him down. We decided that Manchester was provisionally out unless matters improved. I liked not having it definitively ruled out. I was really tempted to rest for 3 weeks and then just run it. I’d run 5 marathons, i’d done 2 20milers in training and I was in HM PB form, I might have even been able to wangle a marathon PB even if it hurt like hell.
Then I went to see one of my physios, he was really concerned that my hip simply wasn’t settling down with rest. The truth was that I had missed so many sessions and even when I saw him hadn’t been running for over 2 weeks at all yet my hip was still waking me up at night it was so painful. The physio told me he suspected I might have a labral tear and referred me to an orthopaedic surgeon and discharged me from physio.
I then spent a day reading everything you could possibly read on the internet about labral tears and it wasn’t happy reading. I cried pretty much the whole day when I discovered: a) it was the only diagnosis that really fit my symptoms b) most young athletes who had developed them had developed them in circumstances just like mine c) the cartilage has very little blood supply and does not heal on its own d) the options are to live with the pain or have surgery e) surgery may make things worse and f) if you choose not to have surgery and especially if you run on a labral tear you may well develop early osteoarthritis of your hip.
Obviously, on discovering the above, I decided to pull out of running the Manchester Marathon. Maybe I don’t have a labral tear, I really hope I don’t. However, I need to give my hip the best chance of recovering and running 26.2 miles on a serious injury would have been a stupid decision and one which my husband had already told me he would not support.
I have spent much of the last few weeks in tears, feeling very sorry for myself. It does seem like a disproportionately serious injury to have sustained. It isn’t as if I was running 100 mile weeks! I look back to that track session on that freezing evening and obviously wish it hadn’t happened. I literally wheezed around that track as it was so cold I struggled to breathe, if I wasn’t such a stubborn person, I would have stopped and I would have quit and maybe I wouldn’t be writing this post now.
I focused my whole life on 19 April (the day of the Manchester marathon) and it STILL feels upsetting to not be running it. I know I could have run it, I’ve stubbornly run marathons in the past through injury. However, despite all my hard work this time the risks outweighed the benefits.
I now have to wait until I get my appointment to see the orthopaedic surgeon who I am reliably informed (having a husband who is a Dr has its benefits!) is one of the best hip surgeons in the world. I hope I don’t have a labral tear. I hope I don’t need surgery. However, I will not simply put up with hip pain for the rest of my life and I have no plans to be one of the world’s youngest sufferers of osteoarthritis, so if surgery is totally necessary I will be having it.
In the meantime, there is absolutely no running for me on the agenda. My favourite time of year to run is the summer so this is super hard for me with all our recent unseasonal sunshine. However, my hip is more important and I think the point when a running injury is affecting your whole life is the point when you need to take a step back and realise that marathons happen every year, we only have one body and if we destroy it or any part of it that could be forever.