ARTICLE: A tale of two marathons

Have you ever seen those time-travelling movies were someone goes back to a key point in their history, change a small event and come back to find a very different future (if not, “The Butterfly Effect” is one).

Yesterday night, after discussing my progress with Tony Riddle, I began to think about how the 2012 would have panned out if not for the fortuitous decision to travel to London to meet the, to me then unknown, author of the “Pilates Running” website which had caught my eye in July. I had been reading a book by Tim Ferris who encourages readers to not simply read things on the internet but go straight to the source and get the full story.

It had worked very well for me to do this approach with the Lydiard Foundation, but what if I hadn’t read the book at the time and never posted that email. Here is the story that could have been and the story that was…

2012 – what could have been

During October and November of 2011, I still suffered from my now, chronic, posterior tibialis pain. Eventually, by resting through my Club La Santa trip and postponing any running until mid-January, I begin to run again. I pay for a consultation with my physiotherapist every month during this period, as I have done in the past, to attempt and speed up recovery and I get a fresh pair of orthotics.

By January, I abandon my low-heeled footwear once and for all, buy the ECCO BIOM and use my orthotics with them. Showing extreme caution and cross-training with home made intervals, I manage to train consistently for 6-7 weeks. As I get close to 100km, major breakdowns become apparent and rich on previous experience, I take an aggressive step-back. My body is not able to race much, and I abandon the Wicklow Way Trail race as being too risky doing only a half-marathon in the run-up, narrowly missing my PB with a 1:24 run on the windy and wet Wexford course where I do not have the confidence to stick it out with the leaders.

Using “The Stick”, icing and stretching remain part of my daily rituals and I believe it somewhat keep the pains at bay. By the time Copenhagen comes around, I have managed a decent spell of training, though far below what I had hoped, and battle home on a warm day in 3:02. I tell myself it was a solid result given the circumstances and my injury prone body and arthritic ankles.

Unfortunately, my choice of racing shoes leaves me with an extremely sore metatarsal on the right foot, a likely stress fracture. I rest it up for a few weeks and then try to resume running. Frustratingly, I run, more than ever, like an old man, and cannot get the pain to settle. I get an MRI scan which confirms “some inflammation in the area” and get glute exercises to help me take loading off the foot. My orthotics are also modified. By the end of June, I have still not run a step, and my physio tells me I cannot do any running until early September at the earliest. I pretty much write off 2012, confused as to why another unfortunate injury had to strike me and wonder about my future as a runner…

2012 – what was

In November 2011, I still suffer from my now, chronic, posterior tibialis pain, until my consultation with Tony Riddle in London shows me the root cause of the problem and leaves me ready to resume training within weeks. By racing controlled through my Club La Santa trip and fitting in easy morning runs around it, I begin to run seven times or more per week again. I throw out my pair of orthotics and begin religiously practicing the drills I was taught to restore my proper movement patterns.

By January, I am still running every day using different pairs of low-heeled/minimalist footwear from Inov-8 and road racing shoes. Easing into higher mileage with a few 75-80km weeks, I train consistently for 5 months. I peak out at 120km, doing several controlled races and setting 8 PBs on-route to the marathon. With only small reductions in mileage necessary on a number of occasions, I feel fresh and am delighted to record my best IMRA performance when finishing 7th in a competitive Wicklow Way Trail race. Despite being “under the weather”, I run aggressively high up the field on a wet and windy Wexford course to record a new PB of just over 80 minutes. I am disappointed not to break the barrier.

I have had another consultation with Tony at this stage and move from minimalist footwear to VivoBarefoot shoes. I have not stretched or used icing for symptom relief since November and even my “Stick” no longer sees much use as the last corrections seem to leave the calves pain-free. By the time Copenhagen comes around, I am a bit confused from the recent change in footwear, but my fitness base is too strong and I battle home in 2:55. I tell myself it was a solid result given the circumstances with the heat and slightly sub-ideal preparations in the final days.

Unfortunately, my choice of racing shoes leaves me with an extremely sore metatarsal on the right foot, a likely stress fracture. I had planned a two week step-back anyway, which I enjoy to its fullest. Coming back to running, I find that there is still some tension in the body. Because I know the cause of the damage, it does not concern me and I focus on perfecting my running technique through the drills and regular shorter runs. . By the end of June, I have done several runs, but Tony tells me to allow two weeks for the metatarsal to heal fully, and helps refine my technical rehabilitation for the summer. I feel positive about the Autumn, in control of the future and with a precise plan on how to attack my next target…


These two “tales” flashed through my mind yesterday evening in a matter of a seconds (the beauty of internal monologue is its speed). It was one of those flashes of thought that can make you drop the cup you are holding. How many champions were never made because of one simple thing changing their trajectory? How many runners did not reach their goals? End note…