First you look so strong, then you fade away

A woodpecker hammers the heck out of a tree trunk high up over my head, I stare into the azure blue above trying to spot a flash of movement, all I see are vapour trails. The night before I had been assembling my kit ready for a run, struggling to predict how few layers I would need in the early dawn. It has been warm here the last week with fine weather promised for the next few days, I make a gamble on shorts instead of 3/4 or full legs. Cue lots of jokes about tanning my legs from blue to white in the sun. As a way of explanation, I’m not known for getting my legs out. Still cool enough to need a double layer up top though.

The morning air is best described as ‘fresh’ but not paralysing cold, so I hit the start on my Garmin and fall into a lope, listening to the morning soundtrack of an awakening town fade into the soundtrack of an awakening wood. The sky is clear, polarised electric blue, almost too bright even at this early hour, the colours of the wood are almost flattened by light. Spring flowers bloom and wild garlic has started to grow, the full colour of summer is on its way. I run up the first climb and make the gate all in one go, no stopping, lungs burning legs screaming and I feel as though throwing up would be a most excellent idea, but I make it.  A wave of euphoria is quickly muted by a dark ominous cloud in my mind.

Stats and numbers
Stats and numbers

After the Exeter 10k we walked back to the car a short distance, I went from walking to having my left knee tighten up so bad I had to limp back to the car teeth clenched. I normally run trail but the Exeter run was all road/path and so I ran in a pair of road shoes, I’ve been hoping that too many Km’s on a hard surface in shoes I don’t normally run in was the cause of that little episode. Well that and the fact that I’m a big unit and I don’t stretch/warm up/down. But . . .

As I search the tree canopy above for the woodpecker, who it has to be said is hammering out quite a decent drum break, I can feel my left knee ‘twinge’. I abandon the search for the woody and start running again, now fully focused on the minutest of feedback from the knee. I try to relax, try to get my legs to relax, I hop for a while trying to shorten and quicken my pace, concentrate on not throwing my foot too far forward, try to aim for a semblance of ‘proper’ foot fall.

As I hit the far end of the loop and start the turn for home I know something is not quite right, this is not going to ‘run off’. The knee holds, but I’m acutely aware of every sinew connection. Walking to collect the boys from school later in the afternoon is agony. The phone call is made and a session with the chiropractor is booked, I’m broken, I need fixing, please fix me before this weekend as I need to run 10+Km.

Running does strange things to the way that you perceive this world, I came through the door fully expecting my ‘stats’ to be wildly different from the last time I did that trail/route, but all the numbers record an almost identical run. Two runs, statistically identical, differing only in mental perception.

Later that day I remembered why the woodpeckers drum break sounded familiar.

The sun will blind my eyes, I love you anyway

Thirsty for your smile, I watch you for a while

You are a vapour trail in a deep blue sky.

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