Well, inevitably, at some point it had to happen. Injury. Last Sunday, I completed a 12 mile easy run with Noel, my Sunday morning running partner. When I say easy, I mean not easy, but probably marathon pace. I find it difficult to slow down enough to call it easy and being competitive like Noel, don’t want to appear to be slacking. Hence we always overdo it.
That would have been fine, but in the afternoon, I refereed an under 18s’ football match (that’s soccer for my wordpretzels in the USA). Towards the end of the first half I could feel my right knee begin to weaken and show all the typical signs that it may go twang! at any minute, but I persisted for a further 45 minutes. I’d like to say it was the reason I made a shit penalty decision and disallowed a perfectly good goal, but that would be untrue.
Let me explain; I have to wear a knee brace for all physical activity. Well nearly all physical activity, for those of you with darker minds.
You see, when I was in my forties, I was still playing 5-a-side football regularly. However, using the footballing term ‘adding width to my game’ in the wrong context, I’d managed to pile on the pounds. In three short years, I’d gained nearly 3 stone (42lbs or 20kg) in weight. During a game, I stuck out a leg at full pelt in order to control the ball. Unfortunately, I stepped on the ball and all my weight shifted dramatically onto my right leg, which, now attached to a fat bastard, buckled. This was accompanied by noise similar to somebody tearing a bed sheet in half emanating from my knee, followed by the most excruciating pain ever. I was stretchered from the field as soon as they could muster a group of disgruntled, muttering players strong enough to lift my enormous frame.
My anterior cruciate ligament was shredded and my cartilage torn. The surgeon explained helpfully how he’d scraped out my ACL and snipped off the offending bit of gristle that was interfering with my knee joint. No more sport. Only running in a straight line.
In fact, only running in a straight line whilst wearing a knee brace with metal hinges. More a calliper than a knee brace. If I stand still long enough, somebody usually tries to put loose change in the top of my head, mistaking me for one of those large money collecting statues for the disabled you used to see outside newsagents in the 1960s and 70s.
The knee brace does its job most of the time. It can also help when you’re refereeing a football (soccer) match.
On one particular occasion, I turned up to referee a match between two teams I’d never officiated for before. Both coaches shook me warmly by the hand and wished me luck. I entered the field of play to a generous round of applause. For the first 20 minutes, despite a few pointed looks from the players and coaching staff for close decisions either way, I didn’t receive the normal abuse, intimidation and barracking that I normally got. I fact, if I ever came close to the touchline, the crowd would shout encouraging words and give a tiny ripple of applause. The first half was a dream.
The mistake I made came in the 30th minute, when I lowered my sock to scratch my shin. There was a rumbling murmur on the touchline. 30 minutes, 20 seconds in, one player shouted “Come on ref, for f***’s sake!”
The crowd backed up his protestations. Then I realised. My socks were black and knee length, up to my black knee brace, which continued up under my black shorts. Until that point, I’d been treated with the utmost respect for refereeing despite the fact that I had a false leg. I tell you, it’s amazing how quickly a crowd can make up for 30 minutes of resolutely restrained discontent at allegedly shit refereeing decisions.
So, back to the injury. This week (week 7, which I thought was week 2) is an easier week. I’ve still managed to run 26 miles, but the knee is considerably looser. It sounds and feels like a bag of marbles. I can run on it, but after a 5 miler on Thursday, rather than slather it in deep freeze and keep pounding away, I’ve decided to rest it until Tuesday. I phoned Noel and put him off our (not) easy 60 minute run. Losing two sessions now shouldn’t make a lot of difference. Better than losing 6 weeks.
That doesn’t stop me wanting to be outside, running through the wind and the rain, and imagining the 26.2 miles of sightseeing to come in Brighton. Or from looking longingly at passers- by who have obviously never done anything particularly strenuous, wishing it were possible to knock them on the head in a darkened alley and swap their perfect, shiny, hardly used knees for mine.
Running Terminology made simple – Pronation.
This term refers to the type of language you may hear when going to purchase a pair of running shoes for the first time in a dedicated sports shop, rather than Sports Direct, which is aimed at people who think track suits pass as evening wear on a night out. The shop will put you on a treadmill (a moving belt, like an airport baggage belt on speed) and video your ‘gait’. This determines whether your running style is ‘neutral’ (pronate). If not, you may be over pronating or under pronating. Simply put, this is defined as:
Neutral : running like a human being. But just the start of your worries. Being a runner, you have to ‘learn’ how to run. We’ll return to this in later episodes.
Overpronate: That run your mum used to do when it started to rain and the washing was still on the line.
Underpronate: That run you see people do in exotic holiday locations when they try and perambulate across very hot sandy beaches with an ice cream in both hands.
Until next time.
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