Tag Archives: achilles

Running 10k; just about

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On Monday, I took part in the London Legal Walk. Normally, this is a stroll through the London parks but this year the walk was held on a loop running along the Embankment and the South Bank. I ran with two other barristers, Catherine, a civil specialist, and Peter, a 5-time marathon runner and the ex-convenor of the Bar marathoner’s team Rumpole’s Runners (approved, I am informed, by the late great John Mortimer himself).

I found the running heavy going: it was a week since I had last run (and then I only managed a mile) and 17 days since I had last torn my Achilles tendon. The pavements were busy with walkers, 6000 of whom were doing the walk with us, as well as pedestrians returning home from work. I found myself constantly darting left or right to make my way through the crowd. This repeated lateral movement constantly aggravated my tendon which was sore within a coupe of hundred metres of starting and got worse.

I felt as if my body was composed of two circuits, one (heart and lungs) affronted by the slow speed at which I was running, the other (my lower left leg) screaming to stop.

That said, the route itself was very agreeable. We were near the Thames for most of the distance, and there was a particular moment when we crossed from the North to the South bank, the sun high overhead, and with a breeze straight in our faces. The cooling wind seemed to have been privately commissioned for us, like a nice bespoke suit. I saw friends from Islington and Hackney law centres.

Together with Peter and Catherine, I was able to sustain a steady 10 minute per mile pace. We were even able to talk as we ran. Soon, and not soon enough for my sore achilles, we were back on Fleet Street and bounding along the last stretch of road to the Law Society.

Back in chambers, I did my best to fill myself with all the miracle cures that come recommended by sports physiotherapists, vitamin c, cherry juice, fish oil. I even managed to improvise an ice bath of sorts by running liquid from our water cooler into an empty metal bin. The next day, my leg was desperately sore, and I found myself sliding-hopping to work, bending with my right leg, and pulling the left across the ground behind me.

Injured; again

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Running on Wednesday, I felt a sudden tear in my right calf muscle. In theory, it should not have happened as I had warmed up sufficiently (or as much as I usually do). While I was running relatively quickly, doing a personalised cross between fartlek and interval training, I was not running further or faster than I have been for several weeks. The day was warm and the ground dry. I was running on park paths, dirt and gravel. My body did not feel tight but loose.

As I wrote a few days ago, I have long had a weakness in my left achilles tendon. It goes back to my first year as a runner, and possibly years before that. I can’t help but feel that in some way my body was compensating for that injury, shifting the pressure subtly from one foot to another, and it was that false realignment which caused the injury. 

It comes at a bad time; I had been hoping to run a 5k this Saturday, and build up from there to running again with friends. From all sides meanwhile I hear of runners’ plans: a half marathon in Cambridge, a marathon in Vienna, 76 miles for Hillsborough Justice.

Achilles tendon injuries

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I was, as I explain in my book, a decent schoolboy athlete. I am, I happily acknowledge, a crock of an adult runner. By the age of eighteen, I had suffered repeated minor tears of my left achilles tendon. Runner’s guides distinguish between tendonitis, a condition where the tendon thickens but the thickening dissipates after a period of rest, and tendinosis, which is when the tendon suffers chronic, microscopic tears, a condition for which the ultimate cure is surgery. I had first been injured at the age of fourteen. Never since then had I enjoyed a full running season without even minor injury. My injuries had long since passed from the occasional to the chronic.

The range of my injuries, moreover, seemed to be spreading. I had already suffered one bout of exercise-related asthma, and for the next two years was prone to chest infections. My knees were often sore. There seemed to be some relationship between the recurring weakness in my left tendon and pains in my right knee. Had I wanted to continue, I should have asked to see a consultant specialising in sports injuries. I did not ask to see one.

Today, I sorely regret that indecision.