Feeling terrible, and keeping quiet about it…

Running in the cold is tough.  For me, not as tough as running in the heat and it requires one to pull out most of the kit to layer up and get out the door.  Extra washing usually results, because all those layers become swiftly imbued with the healthy scent of physical endeavour – which incidentally drives my wife crazy, especially when I break the cardinal rule by seeking to dry said kit on a radiator, rather than shoving it through another wash cycle.

Interestingly, I seem to be immune to this smell despite the fact that my nasal capabilities seem to increase ten-fold on return from a run.  With the greater likelihood of a frosty welcome on setting out the door, it’s also that time of year where festive parties are indulged and you’re likely to be going out having consumed rather too much alcohol the night before, but hey it’s a good way to clear a hangover, isn’t it?

My experience has shown me that yes it does help, and again I generally feel much better after completing what is often a tortuous experience, but the alcohol does seem to make the legs heavier than usual and, particularly for me, bring on severe bouts of ‘stiff knee syndrome’.

Please note I am in no way medical expert and this diagnosis is based purely upon my own experience, but I do find that after imbibing a few ‘tie straighteners’ it appears as though my knees have been replaced with the worst kind of Ikea hinge rather than the usual mix of muscle and cartilage normally associated with the human knee.

I’ll keep rolling, stretching and warming up to mitigate all this, but when it is as cold as it has been in recent weeks even that can seem harder, especially if you’re indulging outdoors prior to running such that those calf raises don’t seem to be generating any burn feeling as Sarra urges you on to then swap legs.  Do I swap, or should I keep seeking the burn?

Getting out with others is a good spur when it’s particularly cold as you can all revel in the shared benevolence and satisfaction of have got out there as you enjoy the frosty scenery.  However, I’ve also noticed something else about running with groups which has amused me recently.  It seems to me to be a form of Group Think that I saw in action after the Synergy Christmas party at the subsequent long Sunday run.

There I was being particularly clunky and clanky as we headed up towards Southgate and the A406 sensing how my alcohol induced ‘stiff knee syndrome’ was likely to last the full 14km we were due to run.  However, looking around everyone else seemed to be concentrating hard on maintaining good form and continuing their much smoother rhythm than I thought I could achieve.  So I carried on keeping quiet about how stiff I felt and just stuck it out till we got back for the obligatory rolling and stretching fest.

Now one thing I’ve noticed, is that when the running group has found a session particularly hard this rolling and stretching is usually conducted in absolute silence – often because most of the group are just too tired to speak and roll.  Alternatively, when the group has felt across its individuals that the session has gone well and members have performed above their own expectations, conversation is rife during the rolling and stretching.

In the case of the ‘post-Synergy Christmas party training session’, the rolling and stretching proceeded in silence.  Hang on I thought, this doesn’t make sense if it’s all gone so well for everyone like I thought it was then why the silence?  It was then that someone piped up ‘I felt dreadful during that, really sick at one point, wasn’t sure I could carry on’.  Same for me said someone else, cue general murmurs of agreement, even Sarra admitted the challenge she had faced.

It suddenly seemed I wasn’t the only one that was feeling like I was dragging a sorry carcass round the route that cold Sunday.  It was actually something everyone was feeling to wildly varying degrees.

So what comes from this, what’s useful about knowing this?

Well firstly, perhaps it’s time for you to pipe up when you’re feeling rough or particularly challenged by the run you’re doing at that time.  It’s likely that at least some, if not all, your companions are feeling exactly the same.  Once shared you can carry on, offering each other support and cajole each other through it to the end of the run.

Secondly, I think this also reflects a wider human trait in that we don’t want to expose ourselves too much and this can be detrimental particularly if we are finding it hard because we’re straining or over extending ourselves.  Thus we’re reticent about sharing when we think we may have injured something and rather than get it sorted promptly we’ll hold onto it longer than we need to before the pain overcomes it and we seek further help.  I’ve found I’ve done this in the past and the only outcome that comes from it is to make the injury worse and thus increase the length of time it takes to recover.

Therefore why not share how you and your body feel whilst out for a run with others.  Chances are someone else feels exactly the same about it and they’ll probably need some support to get through it.

So, why not work on moving away from ‘feeling terrible and keeping quiet about it’ to being prepared to state to a running partner ‘this is really tough today, how’s it for you?’

You might be amazed by what you get back and the ‘warmth’ it could bring to your running.

I’m not sure how inspirational this blog is.  I have had some great comments back from people about the stuff I’ve written so far, so please keep getting the comments in.  At least then I know I’m making this useful for others.

Equally if you’ve got any ideas or wishes for something you’d like me to write about then please let me know.

To finish, I thought I’d find something from London 2012 – it’s amazing how long ago those magical weeks of action seem to have been.

So, Mo Farah in the 5k Olympic final – listen to the crowd as well.  According to Runners World, the last lap you can see here…


…is part of the fastest ever final 1k in Olympic 5k final history.  He ran it in 2min 25secs, no wonder he has particularly well defined thighs (see 1min 30 sec in.)

Also great to watch the BBC commentary team at the same race here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/19226904 and worth noting just how cool Michael Johnson is (see 1min in).

Mo Farah was probably feeling terrible, but he wasn’t telling anybody about it, he just kept going, and going.


About Simon Tanner

Eight time marathon runner, having run Brighton x6 and London x2, finally got a London ballot place after 7 consecutive attempts. I try to write about things I'm going through / have gone through in training to help others attain their running goals, whatever the distance.
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