A different approach to my running

My running hasn’t been going well recently, in fact it’s been bloody painful and difficult at times. Back in January of this year I went to see a physio about my running and he was really, really good. He did all the usual physio things and then filmed me running on a treadmill. He told me I had a very good running style as I barely moved but from doing all his stuff on my legs and studying my running on the treadmill he said I had arthritis in my right hip and I needed to see a doctor or it would get worse. At the time it wasn’t affecting my running or my daily life so like many people I did nothing about it and carried on with life as normal.

Fast forward to May and I’m struggling to run. It’s painful, affecting my hips and lower back and at times I can barely move my right leg, it’s so stiff. Running has become a chore, something that takes so much out of me it’s barely worth doing. At times it takes everything I’ve got to walk never mind run and when I do get going my stride pattern is half of what it used to be. There is the odd moment when my right hip frees up and I can run like I used to but these moments are few and far between.

This has made running not only painful but frustrating beyond belief and instead of getting an enjoyable buzz from running, it’s become depressing at times not only because of the pain and slow pace but because it affects everything else I do such as going to the shops or for a stroll round the village where I live, even just standing up and going upstairs was becoming painful and difficult. Every movement leaves me wondering whether things will get worse and I will end up being house bound and unable to enjoy the moors and fells.

Yesterday was the annual Calderdale Way Relay and I marshalled at a small village called Blackshaw Head high above Hebden Bridge. It was a hot, sunny day and I was glad I wasn’t running as the heat really takes it out of me and I soon dehydrate and cramp up. I was at my marshalling post at the top of Davey Lane and my clubmate Shaun came past with his wife. We chatted and I mentioned my hip and said that my running career was over and it would be slow walks over the moors and fells for me now. Shaun said not to give up and that he’d had 2 discs removed from his back and replaced and he was running fine now.

This must have planted a seed in my brain because on the way home I was thinking about ways in which I could make running a little bit easier and a lot less painful for myself. Somewhere on the way home I remembered I had some walking poles I had bought years ago and never used and I began to wonder if using these to run and walk at a fast pace would make a difference. I decided I would give them a go the next day and see how I got on. I knew I really shouldn’t be going out running because my legs were tired but I also knew that if I didn’t I would get restless and agitated thinking about it so I decided to go out running with the poles to satisfy my own mind.

Today I woke wondering where to go to try the poles. I wanted to go somewhere remote as it was such a beautiful day but I knew this wasn’t practical as if I began to struggle with the poles it would be a long, painful walk back to the car. I decided to stay local and go down Shibden Valley which is a 5 minute drive from where I live and if the poles didn’t help I knew I could be home within minutes and able to rest my legs.

I set off on a familiar track that has a slight downhill to it and I felt comfortable running with the poles from the off. The pace wasn’t anything to shout about but the whole point of the day was about trying the poles out not pace. I carried on down the track which goes on for around a mile or so before it turns right and starts to go upwards. Here the poles came into their own as I was able to lean on them and push up the incline instead of grinding to a halt and moving slower and slower up it. At the end of the track is a nice, little downhill and again the poles came into their own as they provided me with the stability I have been looking for when running downhill.

The rest of the run was up and down through the valley and even on the parts where I slowed because they were tricky, technical downhill trails, I kept moving and didn’t stop as I usually do. I finished with a short run on some tarmac which wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be and a walk up Lee Lane also known as the Shibden Wall which is around ½ mile long with a steep start followed by a steady incline and finishing with a steep climb up some cobbles. This was strenuous as expected but it wasn’t painful, just a tough climb as it’s known for.

Home after a sauna at the gym and everything feels fine. No unwanted pain from either hip and my legs don’t ache in strange and worrying places. All in all the poles made more of a difference than I expected them to and they’ve given me renewed hope that I will be able to run over the moors and fells and enjoy it and experience the usual aches and pains that everyone does and not feel tired and worn out because of the pain from my hip. I still need to get my hip looked at and there is a long way to go getting used to running with my poles, losing weight and regaining my fitness but it’s a good start and has helped me not only physically but mentally too. My running adventure isn’t over just yet!

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