Tonky Talk

Paul is in­jured. It’s not the end of the world, but it sure feels like it

Runner's World (UK) - - In This Issue - Tonky Talk BY PAUL TONKINSON

reep­ing into bed late one night in com­plete dark­ness, de­ter­mined not to wake my wife, I stubbed my toe on the bed, yelped loudly and woke her any­way. Upon in­spec­tion the next morn­ing, the sec­ond toe in from the lit­tle toe on my right foot throbbed red and swollen. Bro­ken? Hard to tell. I pon­dered my next move. Walk­ing was hard work, so maybe a run would solve it! Tightly lace up the train­ers and romp through the woods? That would click it back into place, or some­thing. For 200m or so I was fine. Some­times we shock our­selves, don’t we? Our ac­tions so con­trary to our needs that it takes a while for the body to be­lieve that we’re do­ing ex­actly the op­po­site thing that we should be do­ing. Fi­nally my toe said: STOP RUN­NING YOU UT­TER FOOL! The pain was so in­tense that I pulled up im­me­di­ately. And so be­gan the time with­out run­ning.

Day 1 is sort of OK. I’m used to hav­ing the odd day off. I can't re­ally walk so I don't have a choice. I turn to Google: if it’s bro­ken I could be out for six weeks. But I reckon it’s not bro­ken, just bruised. A week off should suf­fice.

Day 2: it’s very rare I go two days in a row with­out a run, un­less I’m train­ing for a mas­sive event or holed up with jet lag. I feel my­self sink­ing.

Day 3: I feel my­self pass­ing over to the dark side. Is it my imag­i­na­tion or are my mus­cles in­cre­men­tally with­er­ing away? One of the many perks I get out of run­ning is a sharp surge in well­be­ing when I flex and feel my leg mus­cles. To fon­dle my up­per leg, to marvel at the mul­ti­ple ridges of lean mus­cle, like a range of fleshy moun­tains, is a giddy sen­sa­tion. On day 3 I no­tice a soft­ness on the range, bracken maybe, a touch of moss ?

Day 4 is re­ally tough. All that train­ing, go­ing, go­ing, gone? My aer­o­bic ca­pac­ity de­clines with ev­ery pass­ing minute, my rest­ing heart rate rises. The toe still hurts. I no­tice how lit­tle I am do­ing gen­er­ally. Where’s my energy? I re­alise run­ning gives me struc­ture. I wake up, I dither, I write, I run, I eat, I write again. It’s the cen­tre­piece of a pro­duc­tive day, the cor­ner­stone of my cre­ativ­ity. At noon, I run. On day 4 at noon I am cir­cling tele­vi­sion shows in the pa­per that I plan to watch that evening. What merry hell is this?

Day 5: I feel like a civil­ian. It’s like I’ve never run be­fore and never will again. To think that 10 days ago I was do­ing 400 reps in un­der 80 sec­onds and felt com­fort­able; now I strug­gle to get off the sofa. I also re­alise that I have zero in­ter­est in cross train­ing. When club­mates are in­jured, they cy­cle, swim, lift weights, any­thing to main­tain their fit­ness. When I’m in­jured I shuf­fle round the house in a dress­ing gown, like Tony So­prano but with a smaller fridge. I’m try­ing to keep a han­dle on my eat­ing but reg­u­lar read­ers will be aware of my his­tory with cheese.

Day 6: I know it’s just chance, it means noth­ing, but this feels sym­bolic: my Garmin dies. I keep it charg­ing by the ket­tle in the kitchen and this morn­ing the screen is blank. What on earth is hap­pen­ing?

Day 7: I’m moody and ir­ri­ta­ble. I am heavy of mind and body. The one ray of light hap­pens that night as I cross the bed­room to bed, I jog two steps, I reckon it’s on to­mor­row.

Glory be to God in the high­est and peace to his peo­ple on earth. On the eighth day I pull on my train­ers for a five-miler. The toe is fine. I’m back, I am so back! Hon­estly, half an hour in, as I started push­ing my­self up a hill, I feel a surge of pure re­lief sweep through me, an al­most out-of-body feel­ing of sweaty grat­i­tude.

If you ever feel you’re in dan­ger of tak­ing run­ning for granted, I sug­gest a mi­nor in­jury to re­gain your ap­petite. Noth­ing too painful, just enough to re­mind you of what you’re miss­ing. You’re miss­ing a lot.

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