Run424242 Silver linings
It’s 22nd August 2019 and I’m supposed to be 8 days away from completing the biggest physical challenge of my life: 8 days away from running around the streets of East London celebrating not only a personal challenge completed, but a huge amount of awareness and money raised for better mental health in our industry.
Instead I’m sitting here typing this article with my left leg in an Ossur fracture boot with a pair of crutches leaning up against my desk. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
I’ve been diagnosed with a stress fracture of the left shin with a 4-6-week recovery period. Doctors’ orders are to rest as much as possible, keep my leg up and do absolutely no running at all. None.
Things were difficult right from the start. I knew that completing 42 marathons in consecutive days was going to be tough. I knew that starting in sweaty sauna of New Orleans in July wasn’t idea and I knew that injury and weather would be my biggest challenges. I hadn’t expected for a downpour of biblical proportions to flood the streets of New Orleans on day 1 about 10km from the end. I hadn’t expected the same to happen on day 2. I hadn’t expected New York to be subject to flash flooding and thunderstorms for the 2 days I was running there. All in, over the first 6 marathons I ran, 5 of them were during extreme weather warning conditions. Running the summer rain is wonderfully refreshing yet when your shoes become waterlogged and heavy it adds an additional strain on all your joints. On marathon #3, around Central Park in torrential rain, I felt that something was up with my left foot and hoped that, like many aches and pains when running, it was temporary, and I could just run it off.
14 marathons in I had to stop running. However, I didn’t stop the marathons. I decided to carry on doing marathons by whatever vehicle necessary and hope that my leg healed itself so that I could get back to running. I cycled marathons, until a 1c disposable plastic bag got caught up in the gears of my very expensive bike and destroyed it. I did a rowing marathon which literally put a hole in my bottom and I even did 42km on the amazing Elliptigo elliptical bike.
That got me to 22 marathons complete and the leg was feeling ok. We had arranged a run around Victoria Park in London so that people could come along and join for a lap or two to support me. This was a target I set myself to get back running so all the stretching, ice packs and hot baths with Epsom salts was dedicated towards this marathon. From the first few hundred metres however I knew it was going to be tough. At 21km in (half marathon distance) I couldn’t go on. I hobbled back to my brother’s apartment and the next day took myself off to hospital to find out what was wrong.
The first couple of days I was frustrated, annoyed with myself and disappointed that I’d failed in the challenge I’d spent so long preparing for and feeling that I’d somehow let everyone down by not completing it. Whilst I was running through the pain, one of the things that got me to the end each day was remembering that however much pain I was in, it was miniscule compared to the pain suffered by those with mental health problems that I was trying to help. My pain was temporary and would ease once I stopped running, it was a tolerable reminder of why I was doing this. It was only when I applied this thinking whilst feeling sorry for myself on the sofa that things not only got better, but I can say that I’m happy the injury happened.
As they say, there’s a silver lining to every cloud and the response to my injury has been amazing. From the outpouring of support from people all over the world to a call to arms started by La Factoria in Puerto Rico to challenge bar teams around the world to step up and complete the marathons that I couldn’t complete (yet). I’ve been truly humbled, almost to tears at points, when reading the messages, checking out the Instagram posts of people so inspired they’ve taken up their own fitness challenges and people coming together to fill in the marathons I’ve missed.
I’m not done with this challenge though. I still have 141 days (from time of writing) to go until I’m 43. I managed to complete 14 full marathons so I’m 1/3 of the way there. I have 113 days of recovery and 28 marathons to go.