Oh, you know…the ‘I got bitten by a 20-foot shark!’ story, when really you were digging up some weeds as a favour to your mother-in-law, had a dizzy/pissed moment due to lack of weeding experience and excessive cider-drinking and fell over into the rockery, taking out half your elbow skin and a shoulder.
(Obviously I’ve never done this. Ever.)
This week I need a Good Story story, to explain the Extremely Painful Injury which has left me unable to walk, sleep…or compete in the race I’ve spent weeks training for.
Because the real explanation for said Injury (which we’ll come to in a while) is so pathetic it makes me want to weep. For a month.
A little back-story first:
Those of you who have followed my writing, tweeting and ranting for a little while will already know that I’m a runner.
This doesn’t mean I ferry gaffer tape and cups of coffee around TV studios. It just means that I run. A lot. For fun. And to stay sane.
When I can’t run – as is the case right now due to the Extremely Painful Injury – I get, shall we say….tetchy. (My husband wouldn’t say ‘tetchy’. He would say Fucking Miserable As Sin. But we’ll stick with ‘tetchy’.)
Explaining a love of running to people who don’t run, or who ran once and decided they’d rather have their nose hairs plucked by psychotic sparrows, is a bit like explaining the overwhelming love you feel for your children to those who don’t have any.
If you love running already, no explanation is required. If you don’t, no explanation will make any difference.
I started running when I was still at primary school, because my mum was an athletics coach and I pretty much had no choice but to join in. At Cambridge I ran for the University, and after some considerable effort – and a whole three DAYS off the lagers…sheesh, the dedication – I managed to get the slowest 1500m time ever recorded. A drunk wombat would’ve come home faster.
But hey, pissed wombat or no pissed wombat, I loved it.
From that day on I’ve kept running for fun, to stay fit and to get the hell out of the house – out of the WORLD – for an hour a day.
I also run to THINK. Some of my best words and ideas come to me when I’m in the middle of a field, puffing away and counting paces. Something about the repetitive rhythm of the *thump, thump, breathe, thump, thump, breathe* puts my brain into Another State, almost a meditative one, and allows it to let go of a lot of shit it has flying around it. (And it has a LOT of shit flying around it, I can tell you.)
Having learned through bitter experience that you never, ever, EVER remember these Massively Important Writing Brainwaves by the time you get home, even though you swear BLIND that you will because the first letters of this brainwave form a very-easy-to-remember mnemonic, like HTTYFIPWS, I sometimes call home while I’m running and leave breathy answer-phone messages, just to be sure:
“It’s all about….*pant*…his mother and…*puff*…how he sees her life through his…*wheeze*…umm, monocle….and all the cheese….*cough*…in the fridge…*breathe*…and also it’s about love. Yes…..*pant* …love and cheese”.
(WHY my novels haven’t been published yet is quite beyond me…)
To keep myself motivated I enter races. This basically stops me from eating the entire contents of my fridge every day, and also gives me something to look forward to. You know, in the way that one might look forward to getting one’s arse-crack waxed: it hurts, but you’re glad when it’s done.
(For the record I’ve never had my arse-crack waxed. If you have, please let me know how it went…)
Now then, even though these are ‘Fun Runs’ it’s fair to say that I take them fairly seriously, because I’m a Horribly Competitive Person, especially against myself. And against the Bastard Clock.
Here are some race/running shots in which I’m actually in focus, and don’t have snot dripping out of my nose:
(apologies for the fucked-up word placement. WordPress isn’t playing ball on this one…)
I ought to stop this, really. I mean, you don’t see Paula Radcliffe beaming while she runs, do you. This year….NO smiling Liz. Just a MEAN face. Go gettem…
It’s not all pretty though. Sometimes I get covered in mud:
Now then, enough of this sweaty, self-indulgent photo album. Time to turn to the Extremely Painful Injury.
My first race of this year is the Oxford10km, which takes place in just under two weeks’ time. It’s my favourite race of the year, and I’ve been training semi-seriously for it because I rather want to get a Very Good Time. (That’s the competitive thing coming in again. Curse it.)
At Easter I went to Scotland and did a lot of long, steady hill-running.
All went well: I ran. Steadily. Up hills. And down hills. For a long time.
But then….hello what’s this? I got a pain in my left shin.
I ignored it, of course, and ran on it again.
It got worse.
I stopped running for a few days, watched telly and ate crisps.
It got worse. The pain became more localised, about 2 inches above my ankle on the front of my leg.
About 5 days after the pain first started I couldn’t walk at all any more, couldn’t move my foot, couldn’t sleep from the pain despite rattling with pain-killers, and when I bent my foot upwards there was a kind of creaking, grating sound, very like the creak of old, hard leather bending.
(Pause for slightly rude consideration of leather bending…… Aaaaand we’re back.)
Assuming this wasn’t a crisp-related creaking I decided, using my Expert Sports Injury Knowledge, aka Wikipedia, that I had shin splints, so I rested it some more and put it on ice.
It got worse.
Dammit. I switched to Doritos.
With the pain now extremely local and acute (it feels a bit like someone is smashing my shin with a crow-bar every time I so much as move my foot) I decided I had a stress fracture, so I took myself off to A&E (on my bicycle, of course…I can still cycle. I just can’t walk).
After a 3-hour wait during which I read the June 1998 edition of Good Housekeeping eight times and earned a lot about stencilling, I was seen by a nice young doctor who asked me to hop up on the bed and put my legs up.
(Oh STOP it.)
After a few minutes of not entirely unpleasant shin-stroking (I think the handcuffs were important in some way too, but I didn’t like to ask…) he decided that an X-ray was in order.
15 minutes later the X-ray revealed my shin bone to be in perfect condition.
What the hell was causing this agonising pain and comedy creaking then??
I decided to clutch at the only remaining straw, and mentioned, with not a small amount of embarrassment, that I’d been bitten by an insect on the first day of my holiday. (Twitter followers will remember this. Keep up…)
The doctor had a look at the still-present mark near my ankle where the hungry little bastard had sunk his teeth (or whatever they have instead…) into my race-honed flesh.
More prodding followed, more stroking, more lip-chewing and head scratching…but no more handcuffs…and it was concluded that my Extremely Painful Sports Injury, which has thrown all my training and race-preparation down the pan, is in fact due to an infected insect bite.
I was given antibiotics, and sent home in Deep Disgrace.
Thank you doctor.
So there it is. Race plan and several months of hard slog totally scuppered by an insect.
And now you see why I desperately need a better story. All suggestions welcome, but make it GOOD. I want fire-breathing dragons, sky-diving and maybe a shamed celebrity or two. And espionage. Yes, lots of espionage. And more handcuffs.
‘Insect bite’ just won’t do this running disappointment justice….