Interrupted Training: Injury, Illness and Revising Long-Term Goals

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Funny how things pop up to interrupt training.

I’ve had some successes in 2016, such as finally going sub-20 at 5k a couple of times and holding that speed for some good 10k runs earlier in the year. But then I’ve hit a period of injury and illness, and I’ve begun to question some of the things I’ve been doing…

Training Schedule

Since January I’ve struggled to find time for all the training I’d like to do. I’ve gone from three runs per week to four, adding a hill reps session. I’ve also started yoga (which I love), plus the usual gym twice a week for weight-training, plus a hips and glutes strength and flexibility session.

On top of this I’d like to add a weekly ParkRun, as there’s nothing like it for gaining speed. And maybe a second yoga session. And separating my combined weights and intervals session. Plus blogging, and some tech learning I need for work.

I’ve been continually changing my schedule, with the result that things have been on the move and never quite seem to fit.

Injury and Illness

The week before Dukeries, I injured my left ankle. My own fault. I’ve been transitioning to zero-drop shoes, and I ramped up the mileage too far too fast in them. I missed runs, and I’ve had to revert back to traditional, blocky, chunky, built-up heel shoes for long runs, which irks me. I’m going to have to run the Brighton Marathon in April and the Milton Keynes Marathon in May in these traditional shoes too.

My ankle in a running sock, with strapping tape wound tightly round it
Ankle taping/strapping. Very tightly. The tape is going underneath my ankle bone to the deltoid ligaments/tendons below it.

A couple of weeks later I caught flu. Not ‘man-flu’ (i.e. a slight cold); this was real proper flu. I felt dreadful. I missed nearly two weeks of training, and was a DNS at two races. I had Canalathon 50k in three weeks’ time, my first ultra. How the hell was I going to run thirty-one miles when I was out of breath just shuffling round the house?

This was where the questioning myself started…

Revising My Long-Term Goals

What happened was that I became fed up with worrying about Canalathon when I should have just been worried about getting better. I was ill, and I’m not a very patient patient (if you see what I mean). And I wasn’t running, so I was even more fed up.

I began to curse Canalathon. As I’ve hinted at previously, I’ve begun to realise that I’m a road-runner through and through. What I enjoy most is speed, pushing myself and chasing times. Pressure, pressure, pressure. Other people don’t like it; I thrive on it. Racing at Rockingham, and being raced, was thrilling. That’s what I want to do.

What the hell was I actually doing? Thirty-one miles over the countryside, slowed down by a backpack – a backpack, of all things – stuffed with hydration packs, waterproof clothes and spare food. This wasn’t running. This was camping.

(Don’t worry, Canalathon – my next blog post – worked out just fine in the end; a happy, happy run.)

So, in a destructive mood, I decided to ‘blow up’ (my words at the time) my goals and my training.

For a while, I’ve been attracted to the idea of pushing up to big distances. My long-term goal had been to get to a point where I could comfortably run marathons, and then work up to crazy ultra distances. 100k, 100 miles, the status biggies such as Comrades and Marathon des Sables (MdS) – these sorts of things were very much my goal. Next year, 2017, was going to be the year I switched to ultras.

Not any more.

Jake and Richard (Mohican Runner) had both already tweeted that I could be really fast… if only I gave up marathon running and concentrated on shorter distances.

Well, I decided they were right. No more ultras. No more marathons (well, after New York this coming November, at least). I mean, I love distance running, settling into the steady rhythm and pace of a twenty-plus mile run. It’s a different form of pushing myself, and I’ve worked very, very hard at it. But it’s not speedwork, and I’ve lost too much weight because of it.

Firstly, I decided I would concentrate on the speed I love. Follow Mohican Runner’s example: join a running club, get some coaching there, and go racing in club/inter-club leagues. There’s a very good club very local to me; it makes sense.

Secondly, this would make my weekend long runs shorter, giving me more time back in my life. And shorter runs would mean losing less weight. On which subject…

Thirdly, I was going to get the hell back in the gym, lift some weights, eat a bit more, and put some damn weight back on. I’m fed up of people telling me I’m too thin.

As I’ve said, I was in a destructive mood and it all flowed and made sense.

I’ve softened a little – only a little – since then. Giving up marathons is one sticking point, because I really do love distance running and I’m rather good at it. Plus, concentrating on speedwork still means plenty of running sessions, and until I join the running club that doesn’t leave a lot of time for more weight-training at the gym. And putting on a bit of weight would make me slower.

So for the moment I’m still working on all this. I’m working on getting my speed back so I can give a reasonable account of myself when I go to see the running club.

I’ll report back when I have it all figured out.


  1. Great post! Its always about finding balance… I feel like we runners are always planning, calculating, refiguring our training plans… its part of the game! And of course those unexpected things that life throws at us like injuries just make it more challenging!

    Liked by 1 person

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