They say that sensational headlines sell newspapers, but with this headline I’m not trying to be sensational, nor am I trying to sell a newspaper. In fact, it’s not something that I really want to share – hence my lack of updates over the past 3.5 weeks.
Challenge 9 started off very high spirited as per all of the previous ones. It was the 10th September, and Rupert came to join me for his third consecutive challenge with me – Hell Runner: an off road, cross country race, covering about 12 miles of uphill, downhill, river crossing and LOTS of mud. Given my warm up with a couple of 10k & half marathon races, this seemed like the sensible choice for challenge nine.
After a hearty breakfast off we set, with Sarah joining us for moral support & photography duties. I remember when we arrived I started to realise the severity of this challenge, as I saw an increasing number of serious fell running type people. Luckily there were a few less….active looking let’s say, people about as well. We made our way to the start line, and the siren went!
As soon as we started I felt something funny going on with my leg, but I put it down to intense training in the run up to the race, and carried on. While I regret carrying on, the damage to my leg had already been done. Although I didn’t know this at the time, I’d been slowly injuring my leg over the previous 3 to 4 weeks. No more than 2 miles into the race I had excruciating pain in the right hand side of my lower leg, as. Even small hobbling movements felt horrific. Rupert, who had managed to get a small lead on me, stopped, flew down the side of a field and commando rolled over a barbed wire fence to come to my aid – very Rambo like!
After what seemed like ages, while I would have given anything to carry on, I’d made my decision – I had to pull out of the race. I was adamant that Rupert had to finish – while I was gutted that I couldn’t carry on, I sure as hell wasn’t going to allow him to drop out too. “I’ll finish the race for the both of us”, he said, before speeding off down the next hill.
After letting all the runners pass me, I then had to make my descent back to the start. In a weird way the pain that was in my leg stopped me from really thinking of the bigger picture, and that I’d failed to complete challenge 9. I eventually got back to the start, and made my way to the medic’s tent. Given my injury and the location of the race, all they could do was bandage it up, and give me some pain killers.
After a painful wait, only 2 hours after starting the race, an EXTREMELY muddy Rupert emerged from the bog of doom to reach victory at the finish line. I was actually a little embarrassed stood next to him while I still had my running kit on. Compared to him and all the other finishers, I looked like a fraud. I was so chuffed for him, and really proud that he survived Hell Runner!
The following day I went to an all too familiar A&E ward at the Manchester Royal Infirmary to get my leg X-rayed. To cut a long story short (4 hours at first appointment, a 9 day wait, another 1 at second appointment and some sports physio), it turns out that I’d got a stress fracture in my right fibula. It also turns out that running 20 miles at the weekend, then 10k on the Tuesday, followed by 8 miles of internal training on the Thursday with no recovery time isn’t the best of ideas. Annoying I had no-one else to blame but myself. The intense training I’d been doing to get me marathon fit by October had been my downfall. I’d not done enough cross training, enough recovery work, enough physical management of my body. What followed was a fortnight of emotions – feeling that I’d let Help for Heroes down, that I’d let our injured soldiers down, but more than anything I felt that I’d let my brother down.
Luckily my self-pity was short lived, and after injuring the other leg earlier in the year, I’d vowed that I wasn’t going to let silly things like ripped ligaments get in the way of me achieving my goal. So a silly stress fracture was nothing! I’m not the kind of person to stay down for long and when life throws something surprising our way, we accept it, we adapt to it and we come up with a new plan. And that’s very much what I did.
I’m still completing 21 challenges in 21 months, and I’m still raising £10,000 for Help for Heroes. The only difference is, the order of the challenges is getting switched about a bit. And if anyone has a problem with that, then I challenge you to join me on any of the remaining 13.
Go on, I dare you!
Help for Heroes [21:21] Challenge