2010 was my first year of ultra distance trail running, culminating in a fantastic day on the West Highland Way during the race in June. All was going well this year after another solid winter of training. Then in mid March I took part in a charity basketball game and it all kind of stopped there.
I have been carrying an injury to my left Achilles tendon for the best part of 10 years. I was resigned to the fact that this was just a sign of getting older and a by-product of 25 years of pounding the ground. To borrow a phrase from a work colleague, (I love this image, thanks Adam) I just zipped up my man-suit and got on with it!
This time, however, the man-suit was not big enough. I withdrew from the Highland Fling (53 miles) and the West Highland Way Race (95 miles) and didn't bother entering any others. Something had to be done.
I travelled down from Cumbria to see a specialist in Wrexham. Having had a barrage of tests done, it turned out that the problem was not tendonitis as assumed, but a spike of bone growing from the back of my heel which had been rubbing on the tendon. This had been going on for so long that a few fibres of the tendon had started to fray, so it's a good job I caught it when I did!
For the medical minded out there, it's called a Haglund's Spur or Haglund's Deformity. I prefer to use the term "spur", my wife likes to think of me as deformed!
As soon as I saw the x-ray, it was obvious what the problem was. The consultant, my father (a doctor himself) and I discussed the options, most of which dealt with the symptoms only. To treat the cause would require surgery.
So on the 10 August I went under the knife to have the bone SPUR removed and some of the tendon tidied up (ie smoothed). The operation went well, quite a large SPUR removed, but not as much damage to the tendon as first anticipated.
As I lay on my hotel bed that night I got hundreds of texts (thanks everyone) and a lovely phone call from John Kynaston. It was a significant moment as I tried to think, not of the next three months recovery, but of the coming winter and the possibility of running pain free for the first time in a decade.
So, where are we now? Well since then I have had 2 1/2 weeks in plaster and am now in a very hi-tech walking boot for the next 4 weeks during which time I have to slowly start increasing the amount of weight I place on my foot. I start physio later this week and I'm obviously going to have to do some serious left calf building. It was not big to start with, but now it's puny!
Mid November is my target to start running, hopefully cycling before then. I've vowed to be a good patient for the first time ever and listen to the experts, perhaps they do know more than me!? I've already started planning for next year, both training and racing, but I'll save those thoughts for another day.