Trust your mechanic / To make you well


The latest instalment of my achilles tendon injury resulted in a trip to the physiotherapist. In an hour of his company, he neither tried to massage my leg nor did he offer me ultrasound. Instead, the bulk of the time was given over to asking me questions: had I been running harder, or for longer, when I injured the the tendon two weeks ago? At first, I countered by insisting that I hadn’t been doing anything different, that I was simply prone to injury. But under sustained questioning, I began to remember everything just a bit more carefully.

In the two weeks before my injury I had switched to a much lighter shoe. Encouraged by a man in the shop, a runner with a sub-15 minute time for 5k, it felt right, and in my two training sessions immediately afterwards I noticed that I was running far higher up on my foot, with my weight towards my toes (not the heel).

I ran a good 5k time, and even experimented with running the 800 metre laps of my local park – cutting my best (recent) time for that version of the distance by about 40%. No-one watching would have thought me fast, but my legs felt a distant echo of the memory of speed. I was training harder.

I am prone to injury; my prioperception is shameful for a runner. I naturally overbalance, left or right, when my legs tighten. Often, when I run, my weight just seems to be collapsing unhappily downwards. But it wasn’t just a problem of my general weaknesses as a runner. By running faster, I can now see, I was putting more pressure on my lower legs and making myself more vulnerable to injury.

I return home with dotted lines on my left leg, like the marks you sometimes see on drawings of catttle to indicate the cuts of meat.

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