Injured to Ultra Marathon in a year
January 27, 2014 by Mark Purdy
So, just to make this clear from the outset, this is not a transition story of someone who couldn’t run and magically turned into a record breaking long distance runner. It is merely a year long transition from not being able to run more than a few miles without feeling pain in my knees and shins to being able to run 35k+ feeling pretty good!
"the usual things like torn cartilage, dislocated knee, ruptured Achilles tendon (to name a few)"
Around 2 years ago (before I had ever heard of VIVOBAREFOOT or ‘barefoot’ running) I was pretty in to my football and running. I had ran 10k races before and would class myself as slightly above average (best 10k time was 43mins, age 25) and decided I wanted to train for a half marathon. I had previous injuries that I had suffered from playing football – the usual things like torn cartilage, dislocated knee, ruptured Achilles tendon (to name a few) and in ‘upping’ my training all of these old aches and pains seemed to come back to haunt me.
About 2 months before I was due to take part in the half marathon my knee was giving me so much grief that I went to see a physio. I was advised that my thigh muscle was uneven and was pulling on my kneecap, etc etc. I was told to do one legged squats to try and build up the muscle and use a deodorant can to roll up and down the outside of my leg to relieve the tension. I did this for a month, then got back running and within 5k my knee was throbbing so much I had to stop.
This was back in 2012 and I decided to knock running on the head and bought myself a road bike as an alternative. Fast forward to January 2013 when through my career I came across Vivobarefoot (they hired me to look after the website and marketing), I had loads of conversations with the coaches and they said that I shouldn’t give up running and that if I tried changing my technique it could prevent the knee pain coming back and even make running a bit more enjoyable. To say I was sceptical is an understatement, but given that I know worked for the company I thought it would be a good idea to give it a try.
"Doing the excersises was also a bit strange, squatting 3 or 4 times a day, jumping on the spot and consciously thinking about my big toe being planted on the ground"
When I was first taught the technique it did feel extremely strange, small little quick steps, completely straight back and a change of footwear. My standard ‘go-to’ running shoe was a pair of Asics Kayano’s, which were replaced with a pair of VIVOBAREFOOT Ones. Doing the excersises was also a bit strange, squatting 3 or 4 times a day, jumping on the spot and consciously thinking about my big toe being planted on the ground – all of which I was still to be convinced it would actually alleviate the leg pain. During these initial 2-3 months I was running 3 or 4 times a week but only around 1-2k at a time, and to be fair, I was enjoying the running but felt a bit pathetic running such short distances to decided to ramp things up a bit.
I entered a 10k race in April and also a half marathon in June as some targets to aim for. As I started increasing the distance I was hoping that my speeds would also improve Vs what I was in previous years. This didn’t happen, I was able to run further without the knee pain, but was starting to suffer from pain in my Achilles. As soon as I admitted this to the coaches at Vivo they immediately told me I wasn’t ready to run faster and further… BUT if I ‘must’ then I needed to increase the volume and intensity of the squats and jumps to increase the flexibility in my Achilles and Plantar fascia.
"the real eureka moment was the next morning, when I woke up and was actually able to walk and go up and down stairs without grimacing in pain"
I eventually successfully completed the 10k race in 48mins (5 mins slower than my previous best) however the real eureka moment was the next morning, when I woke up and was actually able to walk and go up and down stairs without grimacing in pain – this had never happened before!
Bring on half Marathon: Completed this in 1hour 48mins and again while I felt a little bit tight the next morning I was not in the agony I had experienced the previous year.
I spent the rest of 2013 running most days into the office and at weekends hoping that my London Marathon application would come back successful in October – Which it didn’t. I started looking at other marathons to train for as I wanted to properly test myself (and my new technique) and coincidentally at the same time VIVOBAREFOOT had made a partnership with Beyond The Ultimate.
So the question I asked myself was, could I really attempt an Ultra marathon?
"Why the f*ck not!"
So, at the start of November I began training for the BTU Ice Ultra that begins on Feb 14th 2014 (just over 3 months to train). Here I am end of January and able to run 40km in one go without keeling over in agony. The real question is can I run 230km in 4 days, in the snow and ice, in -30 degrees?
Well we will soon find out. Keep up to date with my progress on our Facebook page and on BTU website.
Regardless of if I finish, or drop out after stage 1, I am completely converted to the technique the VIVOBAREFOOT teach and truly believe that if anyone has suffered an injury from running, or finds it painful to run then you should give it a go. It might not make you faster, but it will mean you can run without regretting it the next day!
(proud) Marketing Director