Mark Armstrong: Knowing when to swallow your pride and get some proper advice

Mark Armstrong running

A runner out and enjoying Norfolk's wonderful countryside - Credit: Alison Armstrong

I’ve been pushed, pulled and prodded for the best part of 45 minutes.

Told a number of exercises to strengthen parts of my body that will hopefully lighten the load on this calf injury that won’t go away.

The whole time there’s a question on the tip of my tongue, but I already know the answer.

The session gently comes to a conclusion and my willpower finally breaks.

"So, when can I start running again?"

A big smile goes across my physio, Claire’s, face. It’s clearly a question every medical professional is used to answering.

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"‘Nothing this week - we need to let it completely settle down again. Let’s see how it is in a week’s time."

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It’s been a long week. 

At the time of writing I’m due to go back to Claire when hopefully she will give me the green light to resume some light training.

This calf problem moved from niggle to injury a few weeks ago. 

After giving it a full two weeks without running at the start of February I went for a short run and felt that now familiar tightness gradually come on.

I was back to square one, ready to cross off another race that I’ve paid for and won’t be able to run in with the Cambridge Half Marathon this Sunday.

I was at my wits end - just when will I be able to run pain free again?

Initially I had tried to manage the injury myself, pretty safe in the knowledge that I had damaged my soleus muscle, which is at the bottom of the calf and prone to overuse injuries.

Doctor YouTube has some great advice but there’s nothing like a professional actually assessing your injury and giving you some bespoke advice.

I’m not quite why I didn’t just go back to my physio in the first place - I was probably being tight but there isn’t a better investment than in yourself, is there?

I’m a pretty good patient once I’ve actually accepted I’m injured - I’ll do the work, so every spare moment has been spent doing all kinds of slightly uncomfortably exercises.

My children now don’t bat an eyelid at the sight of their old man in all kinds of funny positions whilst they watch their tablets during that slight lull in the morning before the chaos of getting everyone where they need to be descends.

My wife, Alison, has made her peace that any downtime with me is seen as an opportunity to really get into the calf with a massage ball.

I hope it’s working because it’s an injury that goes away quite quickly but not to the level that will allow me to start running properly again. The new muscle fibres in my calf need time to adjust to what I want them do (ie lots of running).

I’ve got a rather unscientific test I do each morning.

As I negotiate the stairs with my son, Logan (5am alarm call every morning btw), I feel for any discomfort in the calf. The last few days there has been nothing, which is promising, but we’ll see what happens once I can get my tragically under-used running trainers on again.

I’ve joined a gym in the meantime, desperately trying to maintain any semblance of fitness so that when the time comes I haven’t got an enormous mountain to climb in trying to attain the many running goals I’ve still got.

I enjoy it, but it’s not the same. There’s something about the fresh air you get when you’re running that takes it to the next level.

I even went for a walk at lunchtime this week to get some air… I really am getting old aren’t I?

But I will get back running - it’s a case if when, not if. I’d dearly love to be able to run a little bit of Neil’s Anything For Loki Challenge, but we will see.

For the moment I just have to live my running life vicariously through all my other running friends.

With this in mind, it’s a big running weekend for the Run Anglia community. Good luck to anyone racing the Cambridge Half Marathon or the Wymondham 20 on Sunday.

And of course to Neil and his cohorts who are starting the first leg of his Anything for Loki Cross Norfolk Challenge. It’s all being done for a number of wonderful causes and anything you can spare for it would be greatly appreciated. Check out the funding page here.