There were many occasions in 2018 when I thought and feared that I wouldn’t run again, let alone complete a marathon.
I woke up one morning in January and I couldn’t walk. There was something seriously wrong with my back. I had had back problems in the past. They had lasted a couple of weeks and gone away. This, however, was something different. I knew that there was a real issue here. This was not just going to go away.
Nick’s work health insurance meant that I was seen by specialists very quickly and within 2 weeks I had been scanned and assessed and there was a large bulge in a disk in my lower back that was touching a nerve. A week later, I had a root nerve block, which involved a large pain killing and anti-inflammatory injection into my spine. Not an experience I want to repeat.
The aim was to get me walking again, pain free, while giving the disk time to go back into place. I was left with many questions. Would it work and if not what are the consequences (an operation that is a bit too close to lots of nerves) and would I ever be able to run again?
In my head I prepared myself for pretty much the worst case scenario. 2018 was a right off in my head and marathon days were over. Just concentrate on being back active in 2019. This helped me to deal with the inevitable mental health downside to not being able to exercise.
In April I revisited the back surgeon and he was happy with progress. I still had pretty constant pins and needles in my left leg, but this may have become a permanent fixture. To my surprise, he suggested that I start to exercise.
For once in my life, I was sensible. I took it very steady. Slow increase in distance, very little pace and a healthy dose of patience. Things were going very well until the end of May, when I had a set back with another back problem, luckily not disk related.
Finally, a month later, things improved and the process began again. Steady improvement meant that the distance increased and maybe there was a chance that I could get myself to the Centurion A100 in October.
Things did seem to click very quickly and before you know it, I was back on the South Downs Way with Nick doing what we love. During the previous 7 months Nick lost her training partner and we both lost a huge part of our lives. Obviously this will come to an end one day, but I’m certainly not ready to hang up my trainers yet.
I had several weekend in Lincolnshire and we had the pleasure of seeing a few bits of the flatlands that I hadn’t seen for many, many years.
We had booked the Bacchus Marathon a long while ago and it was the last of the races that I’d paid for that I though I was going to miss. And I didn’t miss it.
I think that this event is best described as 2 races. On one hand you have a marathon, a 2 lap course, with a half way cut off time that some people may find challenging. Then there is the half marathon, which I can only describe as a huge piss up. Each aid station is serving wine from the wine estate and most people on the half marathon seem to be making the most of the opportunity. This looks like great fun, many people are in fancy dress and the party does continue after the race, with a dj in the marquee where registration had been earlier. There is much dancing and more booze being drunk. The half looks like a great day out with friends and would be brilliant for a corporate get together.
Anyway, the marathon was a bit more serious for us. It was a challenge that was going to go a long way to deciding whether I continued to prepare for the A100 or not.
Who would have thought that such a beautiful wine estate would be so close to the M25.
Parking was easy and near to the start/finish. Registration was simple and quick.
And then we were off.
And yes, there are also fancy dress runners on the marathon. The marathon starts before the first wave of half marathon runners leave, so we don’t see them until the end of the race.
As you can see from the profile below, it is bumpy.
The bumpiness is matched by the stunning countryside.
I paced Nick on the first lap to get under cut off, as she was worried about being able to get under the 2 hour 30 minutes necessary in order to do the second lap. We got there with a few minutes to spare and then I went off on the second lap alone, managing a big negative split.
It’s hard to explain the feeling of happiness at being back and being able to do this. This picture says more than any words can.
A huge thank you to 209 Events and Denbies Vineyard for putting on such a tremendous event. I may well come back to see if I can beat this time (or do the half and sample some of your lovely wine).
So, it’s on to the A100 now. It’s a week away. I’m prepared for it mentally. Physically, I’m not where I was for the SDW100, but we will see what next Saturday and Sunday bring.
Have fun, Neil.