I’ve been an avid runner for the longest time. As an overweight teenager I began road running when a mate challenged me (or I believe I actually challenged him!) to the interhouse 3 000 metre race. I knew from previous experience that while I was useless at sprint and middle distances, I could hold my own in the longer distance events. Now I was never going to win but I would certainly not disgrace myself.
That conversation took place in October 1999 and the race was in January 2000. He began training immediately while I waited until the week before race day. Needless to say he beat me. However I actually did quite well and he only overtook me going into the last 200 metres and as I recall he won by about a metre. I was upset because I knew if I had pulled finger, even just a week earlier, I would have won. Nevertheless I began taking my running seriously and worked my way up to a point where I was running 8km four times a week and lost about 12 kilograms in the process.
Over the years my running consistency, like my weight, has fluctuated. In 2001 I ran the Gino’s 10km Night Race in Stellenbosch in an impressive time of 44 minutes. In 2010 I embarrassed myself at the Randburg Harriers Valentine’s Day 10km in a time of more than one hour. I was not prepared and paid the price. About two months later I ran 55 minutes in a 10km race in Pretoria, and that remains my best time for this distance on the highveld. I should point out that I weighed about 10kg more on that occasion than I did at the peak of my powers in high school. Today I still hover around 10kg more than in my 2000/2001 heyday.
Sadly in 2010 while out on a 14km afternoon run I hurt my knee badly. It turned out that I damaged cartilage in the area around my knee cap. The first problem is that I tried to self-medicate at first and built it up to a point where I could run about 6km before feeling pain. It all went wrong when 6km became 5km and eventually anything more than 2km produced pain.
I saw an orthopaedic surgeon who took x-rays to identify the diagnosis mentioned in the previous paragraph. The specialist was keen to avoid surgery and instead sent me to a biokineticist, who gave me stretches and exercises in a bid to strengthen the muscles around the knee cap and also all other complementary muscle groups.
In June I was challenged by Splash PR, on behalf of Puma, to run in the FNB Joburg 10km CITYRUN on Heritage Day, 24 September. I was keen as mustard but was wary about my knee. Nevertheless I took up the challenge and worked out a programme that would build me up gradually; and the knee to boot. I would do my stretches and exercises religiously and then follow a programme whereby I would run 1km five times and then move up to a quintet of 2km runs, and so on and so forth. I knew that laziness and injury could hamper my progress and so reckoned that I could always move up from 5.5km to 7km or from 6km to 8km for example if needed.
As it turned out there was a little bit of laziness that meant my mission was readjusted to move in 1.5km bursts from 6km onwards. However what I did not bank on was waking up two weekends before race day with an almighty pain in my lower back. I could barely walk, let alone run and so five of my final 12 planned runs were non-starters. That is a severe setback. I had hoped to be running my first 10km this weekend just past. Instead I completed a trot of 8.3km on Sunday afternoon.
This is not the end of the world and is likely nothing more than a psychological blow. I believe if you can run 8.3km, then you can finish a 10km race. My initial plan was to finish the race itself in under 55 minutes thereby setting a new personal best on the highveld. That is looking unlikely and perhaps the real accomplishment is the building up of the knee and the ability to actually complete the race in good health. I have two more trainning runs coming up in this week and then the moment of truth arrives. Tell you all about it next week!