Monday, 7 April 2014

Doom

I'm sitting in the doctor's examination room with my trousers off. Her neat, careful fingers are probing the soft area around my kneecap.

I watch her, and think: "Please tell me what to do."

She straightens up and says: "Well, I can't tell you what to do."

Then she says: "I don't think you'll be able to make it round."

Then she sees the look on my face and says: "You could start it, and just do a bit."

Then she looks at me again and says: "Or you could walk it."

I am struggling not to cry. I am struggling to replace my 'oh fuck' face with something blander and more grown-up. I can tell by the way my GP is looking at me that I am failing miserably.

For the last fourteen weeks I have thought of nothing but running this marathon. For the last three weeks I have thought about nothing but whether I can run this marathon after all. I have obsessed, every moment of every day, about how much my knee or my back is hurting me and what this means for my prospects of running.

My injuries have taken it in turns to torment me. For days, nothing. Then - a dull, nagging throb. Then - bam, a zinging trail of pain all the way up the side of my leg, or across my back. For a while, I couldn't figure out which was worse. Right now, my back is quiet while my knee, sparking and pulsing, makes stairs and hills an uncomfortable forecast of what awaits if I attempt to put it through 26.2 miles in six day's time.

Six days. I've trained for 14 weeks and now with six days to go I have to go right back to the start and figure out whether I'm going to do this.

I ask my doctor: "What about a steroid injection? What about really strong painkillers and sports tape? Can you give me enough stuff just to make it around, and then I'll rest it?"

She looks at me, a wrinkle of doubt in her nose.

"I can give you very strong anti-inflammatories that will help. I can give you very strong painkillers that will stop the pain. The thing is, if we do that and you run on it, then you won't know how much you'll be damaging it. You might find that you can't run on it again afterwards."

I gape. "What - ever?"

"Well.. for some time," she answers.

I think about not running the marathon, and I feel sick.

I think about starting the marathon and running a few miles and having to abandon it, and I feel sick.

I think about starting the marathon and running a few miles and then walking the rest, for hours and hours, past all the crowds of people cheering and yelling everyone on, and feeling such a fraud and a loser, and I feel sick. I think about limping down Birdcage Walk seven hours after the start of the race, to see the crowds have melted away, and the litter blowing in the breeze, and I feel sick.

I take the prescription from my doctor and I walk home. As I walk I think about the huge amount of money that my friends and family have pledged for me, have promised in support of a wonderful charity, Ambitious about Autism. I think about the work they do, and I think about the amazing school they run. I think about the day I visited, as a new patron, and watched a little girl - outnumbered as ever by the number of boys with autism - in her class, quietly bending to a task with a smile as her worker sat beside her. I think about my own daughter, who doesn't get to decide that she can't have autism today, sorry. I walk and I think and I think.

By the time I get home I've decided.

I've got a place in one of the biggest and best races in the world. And I've got a vest that says I'm part of a team of people who are ambitious about making things better for children who have autism.

I'm going to start the race. I'm going to pass over the start line to say thank you to everyone who sponsored me, and to say, to my daughter, I'm with you. And then - we'll see what happens. Maybe luck will be on my side and I'll make it to the finish line. Maybe I'll have to go home after three miles. Either way, I'll have been part of it, in some way. It's enough.





My new training plan.


To support me, and support Ambitious about Autism's aim to help children with autism learn, thrive and achieve, please click here

6 comments:

  1. I was in a very similar condition 6 days before the paris marathon 2 years ago. Unable to run 5km without crying 6 days before. But painkillers (for the 6 days before and during), sports tape (put on by a physio), and the reason that I was running (in my case help for heroes) got me round. However it has meant that two years on I'm still struggling to run 5miles plus without pain and have had to be very very patient with my body. Good luck and look after yourself, helen

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  2. Helen, thank you for your thoughtful words and your generous donation! I am a bit scared about precisely the scenario you describe. So will take it easy and listen to my knees .. I hope the running gets easier for you soon.

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  3. The autism mummy in me is screaming, do it, do it for our beautiful little girls who struggle every single day and are so very, very brave.
    The runner in me is saying, be careful, don't ruin the thing that brings you release and calm.
    But I saw you after the Royal Parks Half and how dejected you were then after just not doing a PB. You have to try, you have give it absolutely everything you have got and I know you will. Don't think of the physical pain, you can handle that, after all you are an autism mum, you've dealt with far worse mental pain. But you need to get to Sunday night and be able to say you gave it your all, you tried your very best. You may not have succeeded but you tried. After all that is all we ask of our little girls.

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  4. I echo Kimberley's comment. Yes you have to try, yes you need to give it your best, but no, you don't need to damage your body.
    I don't think that you have anything to prove - you've already done runs to raise funds. Trying is enough.

    Think of it this way - if you damaged yourself so badly that you couldn't do another fundraising run for years, would that make you feel worse than stopping? And what advice would you give to your Grace if she was in this situation? (Always my acid test, that one.)

    I applaud you simply for getting up and starting; for trying for our girls' sake.

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  5. Sophie? How did you get on? Are you OK?

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