Written by Lois Kerrison
Getting a Little Stressed
Challenge 40: Lois Kerrison
From the FLM in 2005, my running went from strength to strength and in October 2006 managed to chop 38 minutes of my marathon time, comfortably crossing the line in 3:40:37. (Thank you to Richard, my running coach: www.momentumsport.co.uk). The Challenge 40 story begins after running the London Marathon for the second time in 2007. It was a swelteringly hot day and a fair number of runners suffered terribly from the heat. However, I appeared to be one of the luckier ones and though not a PB managed a commendable 3:45 with no real problems, or so I thought. After the euphoria and sheer pleasure started to fade I looked at all the running I had achieved since that first 13 minute run and wondered whether there was more I could do with it.
I quickly ruled out 7 marathons, 7 days, 7 continents idea, it had already been done, but I did want to do something that would both challenge me and raise money for charity. I looked at my age and realising I was going to be 40 soon started to germinate this idea that I could combine this with a mad running attempt. So from this small seed grew the idea of doing 40 races before I was 40. Initially I wanted to run 40 marathons, however the time had I left and the number of marathons available to run, specifically in the UK, meant that this was not feasible. So Challenge 40 was born; 40 marathons/half-marathons before I am 40 to raise £40,000 (seemed like a nice round figure) for Childline/NSPCC. The first person I told was, of course, my husband. I had to have his support and help (someone had to look after the girls) otherwise I was never going to achieve my goal. Luckily, he fully supported the challenge, thought I was mad, but still supported me. I decided to start the challenge with the 2007 FLM and so had given myself 28 months to run 40 races.
Now with the idea in my head and the bit firmly between my teeth, my excitement and enthusiasm for the project knew no bounds. I searched the internet for races, opened my Excel spreadsheet and started planning. I booked up races until August 2007 and had everything set in place for race options up to the end of the year. Then disaster struck.
After FLM 2007 I started getting a niggling discomfort in my lower left leg. It didn’t hurt, but just felt uncomfortable and simply wasn’t right. I did the usual things, ignored it and carried on running. Two weeks after FLM I ran my best ever 10K in 44:35, and 2 weeks after that ran my 2nd race towards Challenge 40. The niggle did not go away, I rested at this point and started icing my leg and taking anti-inflammatories to try and rid myself of the discomfort. It was not until running one day that the muscle in my left leg tightened to the point that every step was agony, that I decided to go and see a specialist. Luckily for me one of the best sports injury specialist, John Harris, worked just up the road, so off I went to see him. The initial diagnosis was the dreaded shin splints, every runners nightmare. John was very up beat and recommended icing, resting, stretching and for the time being no running. I could cross-train, cycle and swim so things were not too bad.
Days stretched into weeks, weeks into months and still the injury did not go and I grew more and more concerned and after returning from my holiday (where I was sitting in a car all day, so really resting my leg) John referred me to a specialist. An x-ray revealed nothing, so I had to have an MRI scan. On the 5th July 2007, incidentally the last day of term for my girls, I dropped the kids at school as usual, chatted to a few mums and then went to see my consultant to get the results. “Well”, he said, “have your MRI scan and you’ll be pleased to know we have identified the problem. There is a 5-6 cm severe-critical stress fracture in your lower tibia”. To say this came as a shock, is an understatement, I was both relieved to now know the cause of the problem, but devastated about its severity. Without allowing me to catch me breath my left leg was clamped into an air cast and I was given a set of crutches and told to stay off my leg for 6 weeks. As it was an air cast I was allowed to take it off to bath and I could swim, but apart from that no weight bearing for 6 weeks. The biggest shock was being told that the one or two more runs and the bone would have shattered, meaning pins and crutches for 9 months. I had been running that week to test out the leg, to see if anything had improved (I was told I must have no pain threshold to be able to run on it).
After the initial shock, the immediate challenge was learning how to walk with crutches, how to look after the girls and how I was ever going to complete Challenge 40 now. Whilst on crutches there is very little you can do but sit it out and there were many days where I just felt despair and frustration. I did swim as often as I could and also tried aqua-running, though have to say that is really boring. I was a good girl and did stay of the leg for the whole 6 weeks. On the 16th August (the day AFTER my birthday), I returned to my consultant with a skip in my step (well of course I would if I hadn’t been on crutches) and for the last time my air cast was removed and I was allowed to walk again. However, instead of feeling wonderful I was in considerable pain, in fact worse than before the air cast was put on. I could hardly walk and had to use the crutches for a couple of days afterwards just to help me get around. John continued to treat my leg, giving me exercises to strengthen the muscle and to keep the muscle from tightening again. With determination I did get back on my feet, did start walking, cycling, cross-training and a month later went for my first run, 2 miles in 17 minutes. I was over joyed to be running again, it was like meeting an old friend again. That night I went to see Police in concert and a security guard accidently dropped a metal barrier on my right foot, breaking 1 if not 2 toes. I think the St John’s Ambulance staff thought I was mad, as I burst into tears and started telling them about my story and that I would never run again. Back to John I went, told to rest and not to run for at least another week. With feelings of complete exasperation I decided to go for a cycle instead, only to take a nasty tumble grazing legs and arms and giving my left knee a bump. Luckily there was no lasting damage and John just rolled his eyes when I told him. Taking it one day at I time I did start building up my miles, I started running walking the longer distances but found that for me this tightened my muscles again. I was never getting into a comfortable pace and so my legs did not like it. After consulting with John we decided that I would just either run the whole distance or walk it but not a combination of both.
On the 2nd December 2007, 6 months after my last race, I stepped up to the line for the Larking Gowen City of Norwich Half Marathon. I think this was the most nerve racking race of my life. I knew I could run the distance, I had done it during training, but would all my hard work and patience over the last 6 months pay off or would I be back where I started. I did complete the half marathon, in 1:52:31 and meant that not only was I back running again, but Challenge 40 was still achievable. The story continues with Challenge 40 and my attempt to get back to full fitness and achieve those elusive PBs.
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