running blog

Clive Whaley


Grizzly Baby

Day 69 - Marathon Training - Raced 9 miles of beach, hills and mud!
(The 'baby' version of The Grizzly - called The Cub)

Great day today. I did enter that most wonderful event called The Grizzly. Reluctantly but sensibly I did the 'cut down' or 'baby' version of the main event - otherwise known as The Cub. In other words I only went for 9 miles of shingle beach, vertical coastal climbs and muddy fields, instead of the full 20 mile version.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think the official finish photo shows it. The fun and pleasure came from, not only getting round with the knee intact, but also from the great weather and the fantastic spirit associated with the event. I was also pleased to be on the first page of results - or 35th out of about 500 finishers (approx 85 mins 'chip time').

The Grizzly is held at Seaton in East Devon and this was its 30th anniversary. Somewhere in the region of 2,000 runners take part in the two races. It seems to be extremely well organised and has an army of hundreds of cheery volunteer marshalls, musicians and performers lining the route. At the bottom of one of the steeper climbs you find a makeshift sign labelled 'Stairway to Heaven' and as you start to climb you encounter a guy dressed as some sort of manic wizard. He was spouting dire warnings and flinging out spells and incantations. It was hilarious. The whole thing is just a smiley, feelgood event that gently warms you with it's positive mood. Mind you, that view might have been helped by the fact that I only did the shorter route. If I had done the 'full works' I suspect I wouldn't have been in a fit state to appreciate the generous welcome from spectators at the finish line.

Mindful of the problems I've had with my knee leading up to today, I decided to take advantage of a £5 charity massage from the East Devon Sports Injuries team. It was torture - far more painful than running the event - my quad muscles are so unbelievably tight - but I am sure it did me the world of good.

Knees in the Mist

Day 67 - Marathon Training - 40 mins steady

Back running today, just to test the knee. I did a 40 minute fairly steady run, mainly off road. It was wet and misty, not the most delightful of conditions but that didn't matter. The main thing was to see if my right knee was healed after the best part of 4 days rest - for me that's an eternity - but for the Captain Sensible Squad, that's nowhere near enough rest.

As a test it was a bit inconclusive. I wanted to fly round with no pain or discomfort whatsoever and get a much needed psychological boost from it but Hey … we all know life is never that simple. I have to admit that my knee is not healed. It was uncomfortable pretty much the whole way round. But, on the other hand, it was not in pain and it didn't get significantly worse whilst I was running.

The optimistic side of my brain is telling me that "I actually freed up my knee a bit by going out for a run. It's on the mend, no great harm done and in the next few days I will wonder what all the fuss was about."

The pessimistic side is saying, "it's still not good, you haven't rested it enough, you've probably set it back further and if you run that Grizzly event on Sunday, you will put yourself out of the London Marathon and might do some permanent damage."

Which one is true? I wish I knew.

I did see my old friend the Dorset Shaggy Flump again today. He had just had an argument with a sheep but still found time to impart some wisdom to me. I tried to pretend I was fit as a fiddle but he noticed a slight imbalance in my running style and said "I grant you the serenity to accept that your kneecap will always be at the front of your leg, the courage to bend it whenever you wish and the wisdom to know that when the sun goes down, it gets dark,"

It's Not Good

Day 63 - Marathon Training - stopped after 1 mile (meant to be 13 miles steady)

It's not good. I am really p*ssed off. Set off in good weather and optimistic spirit but after less than a mile I could feel soreness and discomfort in my right knee. Yesterday's recovery was too good to be true. I shouldn't have run on Sunday; the knee wasn't properly healed and now I have probably set it back further.

The only good thing is that I have been very cautious today. I stopped as soon as it started to feel bad and I came back and had a hot bath. Since then I have been on the phone to 2 different physiotherapy practices to try and get an appointment. The one that is just around the corner does not have an appointment for at least 2 weeks so I called another place in Dorchester and I am waiting for them to ring me back.

I am trying not to let this get me down. But it is. I'm going to end up missing at least another week's training and even then I will have to come back into it slowly, setting back a lot of the hard work I've done already. I am almost certainly going to have to drop out of The Grizzly - a tough 20 mile off road classic run this Sunday. I was really looking forward to running it and it would fit in well, being 6 weeks before London.

I just have to hope that a few more days rest and some physio treatment and advice will have me back in action soon.

Runner's Knee

Day 62 - Marathon Training - 50 mins (testing the knee)

Ever since Monday's 20 mile run until today, I have had pain in my right knee cap. It felt like I had walked into the sharp corner of a door and it was badly bruised. Going up and down stairs was particularly bad. I've been looking up references to "Runner's Knee" on the internet. (This from "Undoubtedly one of the most common running ailments, runner's knee or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), can hamper your training or leave you completely sidelined."

I carried on running, sticking blindly to my training programme for Tuesday and Wednesday - convincing myself that it wasn't that bad and also, once I got running, it did seem to feel a bit better. But Thursday and Friday it was really bad. On those days I was in London, visiting my eldest daughter, so it was easy to avoid any running (although I had been looking forward to the idea of a pre-marathon London run). However, I did a lot of walking in the capital and it didn't seem as though I was getting much rest. To be honest, I find several hours walking way more tiring than running.

In the end I tried to be partially sensible by taking 3 days off running and only getting back into it today. If I was REALLY sensible, given how bad my knee felt, I should probably have given it at least a week's complete rest. But there is this incredible compulsion to keep up the training programme, a fear of missing individual sessions - of falling behind with the whole thing.

Before going out for today's 'test run', I looked up material on the NHS Choices site, where it gives a set of useful knee strengthening exercises, so I did a few squats and leg raises - cautiously and gently - just to give myself a bit of confidence before setting off. I also want to learn a routine of these 'knee workouts' to incorporate on most running days from now on. I guess I'm hoping that this has been a warning to me to pay more attention to my ageing kneecaps and that with a bit more preventative work, I will actually emerge with much stronger knees.

I suppose it is no great surprise that, having run the best part of 20 miles on a hard road surface, for the first time in many years, my knees had something to say about it. I'm not entirely sure why it's only the right knee that's complaining but there you go.*

Anyway, the good news is, after 50 minutes or so of running on mainly soft surfaces today, it felt fine. That's great … but I can't help feeling cautious about it, suspicious almost. How come it was so bad a couple of days ago and now it seems almost completely healed? The real test will be tomorrow. If I wake and it has not become sore again and if I fit in a 13 mile road run, as scheduled, that will confirm that the panic is over and I'm back on track.

I've learnt a lesson though. I really do need to take care of my precious knobbly knees.

[* Since writing that, I've come across a potential explanation for the 'one sided' effect - from '' - "Runner's knee is … frequently caused by a thigh muscle imbalance, which can pull the kneecap out of alignment - and this imbalance can occasionally be caused by running on the side of a road where the camber can affect gait." This is a highly probable cause for what I've done.]