The Manchester Half and a non-running injury

manchester half start

I’m injured. Not actually a running injury but it is stopping me from running (boo, hiss). It started a couple of weeks ago just before the Manchester Half Marathon with the flemmy throat, but apart from that I didn’t actually feel ill. However…

The night before the race on the way out to Pizza Express for the traditional pre-race pasta I had a coughing fit and strained the muscles around my ribs on the right-hand side. It hurt for the rest of the evening, and especially so when coughing.

The following morning I didn’t really notice it, although I was conscious of it so I did two small warm-ups just to make sure I was going to be able to run. If I’m being honest, at this point I wasn’t really mentally up for running this race and I was looking for an excuse to drop out, but since the strain didn’t hurt I lined up on the start line.

The plan was to go out at half marathon effort and see what kind of fitness I was in after my ultra marathon. I knew I wasn’t going to be in half marathon PB shape but hopefully, I could get near marathon race pace, so around 8:10 – 8:15 min/mile pace.

The first mile was fine but it was around 8:20 mile pace, not what I wanted. It was going to be a tough race and then I started to notice the pain around my ribs on the right-hand side. It was uncomfortable but not really painful so I slowed a bit and carried on. I was not running between 8:30 and 8:40 mile pace, a lot slower than I wanted but I could do this and finish it. I had a mental wobble between 5.5 and 6.5 miles, I just wasn’t enjoying it but I gave myself a bit of a talking to about just maintaining the effort and not worrying about the rest and I sped up a little.

But then just after 7 miles suddenly from nowhere the muscle strain around my ribs became a searing pain and I had to walk for a bit. Having already dealt with the mind monkeys prior to the race and just before this it never crossed my mind to pull out. I knew I would finish even if I walked the rest of it and I was OK with potentially walking it.

After about half a mile I figured I could keep moving if I went slowly and didn’t move my right arm, which kind of makes for an interesting running style, but I was also starting to look for the next medical tent to see if I could get some pain relief.

I spotted the medical tent at 10.8 miles, at which point my brain went, “Well you can stop and see if they can help or if you keep going you might just get a sub-two hour half.”

Being in quite a lot of pain the obvious choice would be to choose the first option and stop. I chose the second option. Sheer determination to finish and the possibility of getting a sub-2 finish was keeping me going at this point.

I crossed the line and my body just went, “Thank F$%k I’m finished,” and the searing pain came back. The pain was making me breathless, I could only speak three or four words at a time and I so wanted to cry but I couldn’t, I just didn’t have the breath. As a result, I ended up in the medical tent. Anyway, after lying down and being hooked up to some electronic medical devices the only thing they could find wrong with me was that my heart rate wouldn’t go below 100. The diagnosis was that I had intercostal muscle strain and it will take between two and eight weeks to heal.

I need to thank a lovely lady called Sam who finished around the same time as I did and who upon seeing me in distress stayed with me until I was safely in the medical tent. That’s what I love about runners, the sense of community and although we are all running our own individual races we are all in this together.

Two weeks later, I’ve been doing a lot of resting. I came off the painkillers at the start of last week and so I did one-mile run/walk and a one-mile run at the end of last week to see how things were. The ribs were more uncomfortable rather than painful, so with hope in my heart I decided on a slow comeback at Milton Keynes parkrun. I got round OK with a couple of walk breaks and running around 11:30 min/mile pace but by lunchtime I was in a lot of pain and back on the painkillers.

More rest is clearly needed to heal the injury but at least today I haven’t needed to take any painkillers, and that is progress.

I’m focussing on the progress I’m making with the injury rather than the fact that I can’t run which means despite the injury I’m in a positive mood. And besides not running is giving me a lot of time to plan next year’s races.

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