Every runner’s nightmare is tripping and falling and worst still getting an injury as a result. The chances of falling or running in to something are increased of course if you are Blind or partially sighted. I have fallen, tripped and been run in to street furniture more times than I can remember. I hope, of course, that none of my wonderful guides have done it on purpose as a consequence of my bad jokes or disagreeing with my points of view.
Joking aside it can be a real shock when it does happen. The aftermath normally consists of assessing the extent of the damage afterwards and whether to continue running.For me (and for those of you who have read my biography “From Blind Man to Ironman”) will know that my response to a fall is to get right back up and to keep on running. Fortunately for me I have never broken any bones and in all my falls I’ve ended up with bad bruising and a bit of road rash (technical term triathletes and cyclists use for serious grazing/cuts). One of my brilliant guides and best friends, Chris Sherwood who has guided me in numerous races and in training, has witnessed me on numerous occasions tumbling or clattering in to inanimate objects. The ability of a guide to provide valuable feedback to a Blind athlete when going at pace (we can often race at around 6 minute miling or even faster with the wind behind us) requires intense concentration and focus. But it is the hidden dangers such as ice, pot holes, sudden changes of ground levels and slippery man hole covers which provide a guide with the added element of stress. I’m always utterly in awe of guides such as Chris who can not only run at my pace but have the ability to have the presence of mind to ensure that danger is averted. But, no one is infallible and the odd incident is bound to occur. And, when it does, boy does it hurt.
The fall I had today (Sunday 28th January 2018) kind of reminded me of all those times I have fallen and just got back up and got on with the job of enjoying my run. I also came across another triathlete who posted about his tripping over a dog and having a nasty fall. I couldn’t obviously see his FB photo showing off his war wounds. He called home to be picked up and called off his run. I found this really interesting. I’m sure the fall was nasty and fortunately no bones broken, just horrible bruising by the sounds of it. I, on the other hand, have had some nasty falls, landing on my hip or knee, or scraping my hand. When my guide asks me whether I want to carry on, I assess the damage, and, once I know I haven’t broken anything, I simply reply, “Let’s go.” It’s probably quicker to run home in most cases than waiting for my guide to run home and pick me up in their car.
Today I had one of the best runs for a long while. 11.45 miles in approximately 1 hour 28 minutes guided by an ultra specialist, David Chapman. Holding on to our run tether, we headed out from Oadby, Leicestershire towards Great Glen. The first 3 miles are pretty technical and slow us down. I have to hang back holding on to Dave’s wrist where the path gets very narrow. There are sections of overhanging branches or lamp posts and the like. Lots of roads to cross and once we enter in to Great Glen there is quite a bit of traffic to contend with. But, then, we began to run on the country roads. Our pace quickened and we found our rhythm. Our 9 minute miling in the technical sections soon turned in to 7 minute miling and I am guessing even faster in the downhill sections. It was a bit windy but the breeze was behind us and we were flying like eagles. It felt like we had wings. The last time I ran with David, over a month ago, I was struggling and David hardly seemed to be breaking a sweat. I could tell he was working moderately hard today but nothing he couldn’t handle.
Chris Sherwood had also joined us to help with way finding as David isn’t local. It was great to have Chris with us as he is awesome company. Chris found it difficult to get out of guide mode as we are so used to running together. He shouted out the odd danger “steep ramp” for example, but David had it all covered.
Unfortunately, we encountered two way vehicle traffic and had to quickly step out of the road. All of a sudden I heard Chris shout, “Puddle!” The puddle also happened to be a huge pot hole. My foot went in and I couldn’t stay on my feet! Down I went and landed on my left side, largely a consequence of being tethered on my left side. This always means that I end up twisting to my left as my guides always try to keep me upright by pulling on the tether.
As I fell, the first thing I thought was, I hope I haven’t ripped my brand new base layer my wife got me for Xmas! I had a bit of pain in my knee and know that I had landed hard on my elbow. I also noticed that I was very wet from my impromptu baptism. I assessed the damage. Nothing broken. Chris checked whether I had twisted my weak ankle and I said, “No it’s my other leg.” To which David said, “Oh well, that will even things up then.” I laughed, enjoying the bit of banter. We carried on with the run which carried on being a sheer joy. Chris hung back a bit and a gap opened between us and him. Chris had done a hard park run the previous day and was obviously feeling it in his legs. I had a relatively easy day only doing some track cycling at the Derby velodrome and not my usual 2 and-a-half hour turbo session and swim. I felt pretty fresh and bouncy.
As we turned around for the homeward bound leg of our run the wind was in our faces. It didn’t stop us cranking up our pace and our average pace continued to fall. This is awesome I thought as the old legs carried on faithfully turning over. I hadn’t had any breakfast before coming out, so around 50 minutes in to the run I popped an energy gel. “Oh no, I’m in trouble now” David joked. It certainly was what I needed. It was like putting rocket fuel in to my body. I felt a surge of energy 5 minutes later and we were soon kicking our way back in to Great Glen and back in to the technical sections. As we got closer to Oadby the pavement opened up again and we increased our speed. Arms and legs moving fluidly and almost effortlessly as we whizzed past another runner. It was time to cross over and the other runner shouted to us “You are amazing!” I joked with David that she was talking about him. “NO mate I think she was talking about you.” He quickly replied.
We were soon back to my house, muddy bloody and happy. I can’t wait for my next outing with David and in particular racing Gloucester 20 on 25th March and London Marathon on 22 April.
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