October 23rd 1984 ... 25 years ago today ... I was three days away from the biggest physical undertaking of my life. Over two years of preparation was coming to a head finally, injuries had been endured, physio had been applied, I'd suffered through a four week running embargo while a hip injury had time to recover (just weeks before the off), I'd been through registration, and now ... I was just counting down the days and hours to the moment I would cross the start line at the Dublin City Marathon.
In the eighties, marathon running had come of age. It was the distance to aspire to for anyone who loved distance running. I had discovered running a few years earlier as a way of keeping fit for my weekend hiking adventures in the Dublin mountains, and within a relatively short time, I was running 3, 4, 5 nights a week with like-minded eejits who met on dark evenings at Belgrave Square, between Rathmines and Ranelagh in Dublin, to venture off for 5, 10, 15 mile runs around the city.
The Dublin marathon had started in 1980, and had quickly caught the imagination. I was tempted to go for it in 1983, but it didn't happen, so, when I gained my place in the 1984 line-up, nothing was going to stop me. Training runs happened most nights by this stage, with 2 hour jaunts being nothing special ... I was loving it. I remember at the time crying off from a run so I could go out for a drink with some friends one night ... and sitting there feeling miserable, knowing that I should have been running instead ... that's when I began to wonder if maybe I had a problem ... but that's another story!
The build-up was intense, exciting ... I was going to run 26.2 miles, for heaven's sake ... so when I began to have pain in my hip, I ignored it: I had a marathon to train for. But it wouldn't go away, and eventually I had to give in and go and see a sports physio (thin on the ground back then) about it. Her diagnosis ... severe pronation of the left foot, rolling outwards as I placed it, due to running in shoes past their best (what did I know about these things back then?), resulting in a referred problem to the hip. Treatable, yes, but lengthy rest from running absolutely required, and no, it didn't matter that my first marathon was only a month away ... NO RUNNING!
Even now, as I write this, I can still hear the song of the moment that always seemed to be on the radio as I lay on the treatment table ... John Waite's Missing You ... wow, it's amazing how it all comes back ...
Anyway, I'd come through the treatment and enforced rest (most of it, anyway), and in 3 days time, I was going to run a marathon!
And I did ... and I enjoyed most of it, but my lack of running in that last month took its toll, as did the injury, and at around 22 miles, it was all hurting again ... but I finished ... not in the 3.5 hours I'd hope for, but in just over 4 hours (4.04) ... I'd done it!
But afterwards, my hip just wasn't the same. I got back out running soon after the marathon, but after a few miles, my hip was hurting and I'd then have to limp home. Eventually, I had to make a decision ... and it was to give up running. Not being able to run more than three miles was incredibly frustrating after being able to run for 15 miles or more regularly, and the prolonged injury was getting in the way of my hill walking, so running had to go.
Over the years, I occasionally dipped my toe back into the running world ... starting out again, building up to three mile runs, and then after a few weeks of this ... ping! Something seemed to go in my hip and I'd be hobbling again. I had to accept that I couldn't run, so I put my energies into other activities ... cycling, gym, korfball ... various efforts over the years to get and stay fit ... but I always missed and longed for running.
Then, after my brush with cancer, I created the 365challenge for Cancer Research UK. You may have noticed that none of the challenges involved running initially, but when I had completed my Lands End to John O'Groats ride, my channel swim, the three peaks (twice) and rowed the Thames, I found I still had 2 months of my 365challange year left ...
So I thought I'd try to run again. But before I got too far, I consulted a specialist about my hip. And to my great relief, he diagnosed a different problem, one that was manageable with a little physio and a lot of regular stretching ... so ... I got to run again!
I took on a new final challenge, to run the length of Hadrian's Wall, and over those two months, with all that stretching, I discovered I COULD run again ... and it felt just great!
Since I finished the 365challenge, I've continued running, and this Sunday, almost 25 years later TO THE DAY, I'm tackling my first race since that Dublin marathon in 1984, the Rhyl 10K, part of the CRUK Run 10K series.
Can't wait! Come along if you can - Sunday October 25th at 11.30.
Let's hope it's not hip, hip, oh heck!