Has an in­jury dashed Paul’s sub-3 dream?

Runner's World (UK) - - In This Issue - BY PAUL TONKINSON Check out Paul and fel­low co­me­dian Rob Deer­ing’s run­ning pod­cast, Run­ning Com­men­tary – avail­able on itunes and Acast. @ Run­com­pod

Run­ners run. That’s what we do, and it can take over our lives. Many of us start off sim­ply try­ing to get healthy. We go for a run, we like it and then we run some more. We feel stronger, fit­ter and more alive, so the runs in­crease. Soon, run­ning has be­come the pri­mary thing, more im­por­tant than health. Warn­ing signs are ig­nored, and we run through colds and mi­nor in­juries. The en­dor­phins kick in, the body adapts and we find a way be­cause we be­lieve run­ning is the most im­por­tant thing. For the last two years or so I’ve had a gan­glion cyst on my right foot. It’s a smooth ridge of flesh on the side, pudgy to touch, but solid, pain­less and weird. I could still run on it so I did. Over time, the gan­glion dis­ap­peared and I for­got about it while be­com­ing aware of a gen­eral weak­ness or over­com­pen­sa­tion there – an ever-so-slight limp and stiff­ness round the right ten­don. Never mind. Run. It al­ways eases off. No prob­lem.

Then, af­ter an 85-minute half marathon in Bath in March, the sec­ond toe on my right foot re­ally hurt. Nat­u­rally, I ig­nored it and kept run­ning – big mileage, long runs. The fol­low­ing week I got a pain on the right side of my foot, lo­calised around the bone. It calmed down when I ran 10 miles on it but later I was limp­ing round the house. That night, I was plunged into de­pres­sion and self-di­ag­no­sis: Was it the metatarsal? Was I look­ing at five or six weeks out? London ruined! I slept fleet­ingly. Af­ter fur­ther Googling I con­cluded it might be my cuboid, which Youtube showed me would re­spond to ma­nip­u­la­tion. That night I stretched, grap­pled, strapped my foot up and did 5 x 2km reps at the track, happy as Larry. The week’s to­tal was 86 miles, my high­est by a good dis­tance.

I had reached a place that many run­ners get to be­fore a big event – run­ning takes prece­dence, the se­condary stuff such as long-term health can be dealt with at a later date. I am re­minded of ul­tra-legend Scott Jurek, who, on the eve of a 100-mile trail race, tore lig­a­ments in his an­kle; he re­sponded by smear­ing turmeric on it and wrap­ping it up with gaf­fer tape. We’re not nor­mal.

I present my­self to An­drew, a gan­glion guru with a rep­u­ta­tion for bru­tal mas­sage. He prods my feet – yes, there are prob­lems. It starts with my sec­ond toe, which is longer than my big toe. It’s called Mor­ton’s toe, a sym­bol of en­light­en­ment he says ( ha!). This leads to im­bal­ances down my feet, which are flat. This sparks a long and tragic dis­cus­sion on the state of my feet and an­kles: col­lapsed arches, boun­teous scar tis­sue, cuboid dis­place­ment that has led to nu­mer­ous mi­cro-tears, soft tis­sue not re­pair­ing – lead­ing to what An­drew de­scribes as zom­bie tis­sue in my feet. ‘This will hurt a bit,’ he says, ‘it’s a Chi­nese method, Tui-na.’ He be­gins to prod and scrunch, break­ing down tis­sues, sep­a­rat­ing ten­don from bone. We set­tle into a silent rhythm of winces and sharp in­hala­tions as he finds balls of gris­tle and tis­sue to press on. At one point, when I’m on the verge of whim­per­ing, he says, ‘I’m go­ing to get some im­ple­ments so I can go deeper.’ It sounded the most fright­en­ing sen­tence that had ever been said to me.

By the end I was a gooey mess of re­laxed flesh, bat­tered but re­lieved. I’d need more ses­sions, An­drew said, but the foot was com­ing back to life. I needed to buy a golf ball and use it to mas­sage pres­sure points, and tiger balm to keep the blood flow­ing, I needed to stretch and swim. And rest, it needs rest.

‘ But can I run?’ I asked. ‘I need two more big mileage weeks, a ta­per and then a full marathon. Can I do it? Will it hold?’ He looked at me ner­vously. ‘ Yes.’

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