Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Setbacks and Hard-to-Swallow Lessons – A Case Study Warning From the Editor (written for UK Athletics 10/08).

Unfortunately, most of us non-elite runners endure far more lows than highs, despite the endless hours of training and meticulous preparation and the only solace we may find in those oh-so-annoying and ever-so disappointing performances is that hopefully, we’ll learn from them.

Without doubt, the most disappointing and heart-breaking setback during my relatively young athletic career has been the 2008 BUPA Great North Run. At the beginning of the week, I’d been struck with a nasty urine infection so I was put on antibiotics but continued to train as normal (and felt fine) without fail or any changes to the schedule.

However, on the day itself; after becoming very het-up with the challenges a new (and very crowded) environment faced (where do I get my number?, where are the toilets?, how do I get onto the elite start area?!), I felt like I suffering as early as mile three, so reluctantly withdrew from the race at only mile five.

Believing – as I purposely stopped at the paramedic stand – that these kind souls would be able to escort me to the finish - eight miles further on; I was then struck with not only immense disappointment but also confusion – I was told I’d have to make me own way to the finish; what an absolute nightmare!!!

Fortunately for me, my knight in shining armour – my boyfriend; Adam – was running nearby and quickly found me. Greeting him as I burst into tears of disillusionment and constant blurts of apologies, he managed to fathom exactly what we needed to do – and I really didn’t like the sound of it.

Draped in a tinfoil sheet; barely covering my skimpy running attire, I bravely did the ‘walk of shame’ a mile or so back the way I’d ran with Adam holding my hand for support to a metro stop, where we’d embark on a seemingly never-ending journey through Tyneside – crammed like sardines, due to everyone heading in the same direction to cheer on family and friends at the finish.

Teary and extremely embarrassed, I couldn’t wait for my nightmare to end. A couple of miles walked later after our metro experience, and we finally arrived at the baggage tent so I could finally get dressed and go home!

However, the following day; just when I thought the ordeal was over, my luck then went from bad to worse – it turned out I was actually allergic to the antibiotics and as I’d pushed my body too far too soon, I came out with a very weird and unsightly all-over-boy rash. A couple of days’ rest followed before throwing myself back into training and sensibly deciding to withdraw from a 10km road race I was due to compete in for the Midlands that weekend.

It took quite a while for me to recover from the psychological stress I’d put myself through (Adam was an absolute star through it all!) and I vowed never to race again when on antibiotics – at the end of it all at least, I’d learned my lesson and had gained more respect for my body.*** REMEMBER - ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES, TOO!!!

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