My friend the golf ball

Niggles come, and niggles go. They do fade even if you may have been working your way through something for a number of weeks.

With the spring marathon (Brighton in April for me) still a relatively small blip on the horizon niggles at this stage of training are easy to ignore and can often get more serious as a result, causing unnecessary delay to #marathontraining.

This is the time of year when it can be harder to get out as the weather starts to turn less clement and there is less push from the worry about distant marathon outcomes to steer you out the door. Yet the cooler times are often the most enjoyable to run, are even the most refreshing of all sessions, and the autumnal backdrop provides a natural ‘colour run’ to proceedings that doesn’t require a series of strangers to pepper you with dye every kilometre.

A niggle has arrived for me and at training I resisted the urge to run through it, to carry on regardless, adopting the sensible approach to roll the itinerant area instead. By god it’s frustrating especially as progress has been good in these early weeks as some sprint training and core strength training has seemed to bear fruit with a new PB in the Royal Parks Half Marathon and good recovery from recent unofficial training runs.

I’ve noticed that when niggles do strike the urge to run does become stronger mainly I think because the jealousy of other runners out trotting past you is especially intense because you are being denied the same opportunity. When you’re struggling to run, why is it there are so many more runners about? It’s like you’re being followed by a coachload of runners who get chucked of every so often just to rub your nose into the fact that you’re resting/recovering from an injury.

Yet I also started to wonder do other runners pay as much attention to us as we think they are, or is the actual dialogue in their head “There’s another runner”, or “that’s a nice top”, or “they’re going so much quicker than me”, or the more mundane “what’s for tea?”.

Is it the worry of what others think of us that stops us getting out for a run, or even not stopping when we have a niggle thinking that by running through it others will think better of us, or is it just our own ego that’s driving it all?

Probably all down to that ego I’m afraid, however much we wrap it up in other stuff….

However, our ego continually suggests to us also that other runners are actually really interested in what we are up to. When the harsh reality is, especially those running towards us, THEY REALLY DON’T CARE HOW YOU ARE RUNNING/LOOK/ARE DRESSED etc etc, just get out of each other’s way, perhaps nod or smile as they go past and stop worrying about which part of your body, clothing, breathing, technique or running style they might be critiquing.

They are more as likely as not doing any of these things. Rather they are worrying about which part of their your body, clothing, breathing, technique or running style you might be critiquing. Better to pay attention to the niggle.

Trouble is running through that niggle is probably the quickest form of self-sabotage there is, especially if the niggle/pain becomes much worse as you continue running. So I fought my ego at training and stopped, got down and rolled whilst others ran past outside. Now if that doesn’t stoke the running jealousy then nothing will, and the frustration levels were particularly peaked by the experience too.

This is where the golf ball becomes a trusted friend as it provides a focused approach to help release the tension in the muscles that could be causing the niggle in the first place, though it is important to get some specialist advice so that you make sure the targeting is right.

Coupled with the old favourites of the foam roller, cricket ball, ice pack, and the hot water bottle these can become key early members of your training entourage that you may well revisit as you advance through the next several months of marathon preparation. They key thing is to get practised at using them so you know how best to target those early niggles to head them off at the pass before they have you walking like you’re out of a western.

These are your friends, the ego much less so, and as the urge to increase distance becomes stronger, the worry about the less distant marathon gets bigger, trust these tools to help your muscles cope with what you will put them through. Because without doubt those muscles are going to protest, shout, rant and rave about what you’ll put them through and anything that becalms can only help keeping you on the road.

Ready to approach that runner coming in the other direction.


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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