The laser removed most of the inflammation as hoped but over the weekend there was a slight regression, something wasn’t quite right with my left leg, so I decided not to attempt a return to running. Instead I went straight to John and first he had a look at the subtalar sprain and my foot concluding that he wasn’t worried about the inflammation left there and was happy with the return of flexibility of my foot.

However, he pinched the left inside of my shin which was much sorer than its counterpart on the right leg. With a worried frown he had me do a few jumps and said I was jumping like a man trying to protect his forefoot and had to get rid of that habit as I seemed to have adopted it while I had problems after the sprain.

A sneaky injury

John explained that this injury had not been there last time and it was curious it had developed given the handful of runs done since the last consultation but the diagnosis was clear: medial tibial stress syndrome better known as the vaunted shin-splints.

“You have bleeding where the calf muscle attaches to the shin-bone,” John explained, “if not treated with care it would have turned into a full-blown stress fracture which would have taken about three months to heal.” He prescribed 3-4 days more off and an extremely painful icing routine. “You’ll want to tell me about it when you come back here.” He was right enough talking to a man who doesn’t like cold feet…

“The sequence of events suggests a man who has been running with his foot dorsiflexed to protect it. A difficult thing to do but knowing your determination I’d believe you did it,” John mused and explained he would teach me how to apply K-tape when I return to support the shin (one of the few areas he believes it is actually effective on) and has ordered new orthotics to replace the old pair with an admonishment to change them a bit earlier (looking at them their shape no longer suggests they were designed for human feet).

Chain reaction

So a very important lesson has been learned: When applying the demands of the Lydiard base training to your body every injury, however small, can trigger a devastating cascade into your system – subtalar sprain lead to mid-talar sprain which lead to inflamed forefoot which lead to shin-splints. This is a lesson I will do well to remember.

In the meantime, I am not too worried. Cross-training is going well and having already achieved the necessary level of fitness for my immediate goals in week 7, the partial loss of the last 3 weeks of base training should have little overall impact. As John said: “You are building on a very weak platform” referring to my muscular development. Physically I am not an athlete and have never been an athlete. I may have mind-set and in time I will build the necessary physical strength to be able to express my running potential, but for now I am really only a baby in running terms.

Running strong

This has become increasingly clear through the base phase which is the first time I can safely say I have been running, that is moving strongly and with proper running form, not shuffling, for significant mileage. The short-term results were impressive but the lessons will have to continue for quite some time.

Lately I have realised that my age is no barrier. If I keep upping the training and working on my physique and biomechanics over a 10-15 year period, I have every chance of fulfilling my ambitions. The first step is to heal this injury up and progress to the next phase of training with my base intact. The longer term steps starts this year with solidifying my base through racing and focusing on the half-marathon distance.

Next year, to really learn to run properly, I will move down in distance. I have not yet decided how far because I am not conditioned well enough to generate my full speed and therefore it is not clear what raw pace hides beneath the atrophied muscles of an inactive youth. In any case, I must go back to “primary school” and only once I have learned to move properly then return to focus on the marathon where I believe I will have the greatest potential.

My cross-training with Medfit very much addresses my weaknesses so despite the disappointment of losing good running training and not being able to capitalise on the ever long and faster runs I did, I may gain as much benefit in the short-term from this training simply because it is such a marked weakness.