A new WhatsApp group has taken pride of place on my digital Tower of Chatgroup Babel. I baptised it The Cup that Cheers and invited all my injured friends who’d rather be running, swimming, cycling (or all three, given that one’s a triathlete) to join, both the group and IRL for support and succour. It also became a bit of a book swap (those who have been signed off work because of their physical challenge have lots of time for reading).
It’s the mental challenge that becomes the daily grind when you can’t train as you used to. Being a grumpy old bag, I moaned a lot, drank a lot more than I needed to, flounced out of various coaching and training groups and found myriad excuses not to volunteer at parkrun because I couldn’t bear to see my friends powering around the park. This did not make me feel any better. Other members of the group have been more sanguine. One, who was on course to PB at the Chicago Marathon before she took a tumble and broke her collarbone, graciously enjoyed being a spectator in the windy city, and kept us abreast of all our club colleagues’ split times on the big day.
Another, unable to run, still volunteers as Run Director at parkrun, and continues her work with GoodGym with enormous brio: at first from her hospital bed, then from her sofa, next on crutches and now walking.
At our meet ups we talk about techniques we have tried to ease the mental load and dig deep in the positivity barrel. I know I must stop casting my mind back to my (relatively) swift and pain-free running of 2015, when all my PBs were set. Looking back with rose-tinted spectacles has always been my downfall and I should be more content with the here and now. My friends bring a bit of psycho healing, courtesy of Runner’s World magazine
The feature on page 21 tells us should apparently forget Rest Ice Compression Elevation and go all Zen with Protect Elevate Avoid (antinflammatories) Compress Educate (Dr Google!) Load Optimism Vascularisation (heart rate up!) Exercise, which, if you haven’t worked it out, spells out Peace and Love.
It’s a great acronym to live by. Especially those of us who are sceptical when doctors issue a running blanket ban, without realising the gloom they cast on running obsessives. And it ties in well with Deena Kastor’s book, which I read with huge interest (never mind that she routinely talks about mile splits in terms of 4-minute-something, when I am struggling to stay under 8 for any decent period). Her elite challenges, when it comes to injury, are the same as those we face. She also writes about taking a year off to be a baker, which sounds terrific. Especially her cinnamon-bun-and-coffee- self love. Chimes with mine.
However I took a step too far with the other book in the picture here. I bought the Artists’ Way during a particularly harsh year of self-loathing, when I blamed myself for my daughter’s anorexia and did my best to end my marriage. I thought that writing morning pages and really believing I could be someone else would make me feel better. It did not. Turning to friends – running friends, university friends, childhood friends – and family, did help.
With writing, as with running, you just have to just keep on doing it until it hurts, then back off a bit and distract the niggle by giving it a bit of an edit. I suppose that’s what Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages are about, but the rest of the book just seemed a lot of flannel about unlikely-sounding people whom I’ll never really believe haven’t been totally made up. I know Deena exists. And I’ll see my real-life running buddies over a cheering coffee, or over a few gentle miles, as often as I can.