Tag Archives: Running

Finished the 2013 Great South Run

20x30-SSSO2909 On a day of interesting weather conditions, I’m happy to have completed my second Great South Run.

A few months ago, I really doubted this was going to happen: I was still struggling with a stubborn achilles injury which meant I did not want to do any form of training, let alone step out and run ten miles. In short, in no way was I enjoying running, and even walking around was reminding me of how annoying the injury was. Thankfully, I managed to sort this out.

I was back to being able to train in August, combining it with my refereeing. I only made the decision to enter the Great South Run a few weeks before, and I know I went into it not being as fit as I was the previous year, but fully confident I would do okay. And I did! I finished with an official chip time of 1:29:10, compared to 1:24:18 the previous year. The slower time was to be expected, especially considering the strong gusts on the final two miles which really slowed me down. I got lucky in 2012 as the wind was non-existent along that straight!

Due to the achilles comeback, I used traditional running shoes (a worn-in pair of Saucony Progrid Omni 9s). It was solid throughout and afterwards. As a result, I did a training run the following week back in my usual Inov8 shoes and things remained comfortable. I’ll try and stick with them again.

Oh, here’s proof I finished:

I also raised money for the British Heart Foundation. Sponsorship is still open so certainly any further donations would be much appreciated.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

I will definitely do this again next year: The atmosphere and support from the crowds is excellent. I’m even considering doing a Half Marathon as my next running challenge, and there is a new one coming in 2014 in my area. Tempting!

Great South Run 2013 – Entered!

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I have now entered this year’s Great South Run. I did it last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. The atmosphere was incredible with the streets lined with people lending their support, and in particular it was really good when running past my chosen charity’s support area!


I have left it pretty much until the last minute to enter (Just 500 places were left when I did). To be honest, in the deep throes of the troublesome achilles, I had written off the event for this year. However, in recent months it has healed up with real vigour which has also allowed me to train ‘for fun’ as well as all the usual refereeing activities. In no way am I at the same fitness levels as last year leading up to the event, but I know I can do it without too much drama.

On the serious side, my chosen charity is the British Heart Foundation. They are my standard charity primarily as my father was diagnosed with Angina, requiring support and a bypass operation! Coronary heart disease is the biggest single killer in the UK. The efforts of the BHF are really important.

There is a sponsor link below should you wish to do so. It would be appreciated.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

My first supply league middle

1st-star-medal-gold Following on from my first game of the season (in a 4th official role), it was time to grab my whistle and have my first ‘middle’ of the season too. This was on my local supply league now that I am eligible to do those games following my promotion to Level 4.

The warm-up from the previous game had given me confidence that my achilles was going to behave, and I’m very happy to report that it stayed rock solid throughout the 90 minutes. However, the first game back is always a shock to the system, so the end result was that everything else hurt instead! Thankfully, just the usual DOMS after the game rather than anything more sinister.

The game itself went well although I am aware that I have a lot of work to do to get my fitness back to my peak level. That’s to be expected following the injury. I’ve resumed training runs again with the achilles remaining stable but I am being careful with how I am ramping up the activity to avoid anything else going ‘ping’.

It was a great moment to start that training run yesterday, as I was very much aware that I was able to run along pain free so had a big smile on my face!

It’s a busy week though: Another supply league middle coming up, then my first outing as Assistant Referee on the contrib, then refereeing an U18s Premier League Academy match!

Tentatively back on the Treadmill

treadmill-injuries I’ve been noticing a dramatic improvement in the achilles over the last few days, now that I’m wearing appropriate footwear and tackling my severe overpronation head-on. The best way of explaining this is that I am just not really noticing my achilles during the day and there is much reduced morning soreness.

As a result, it was time to do a controlled treadmill run to see where I was. For reference, the last time I did one of these a few weeks ago, I managed about 30 seconds before I needed to stop because I could tell it wasn’t doing me any good at all.

I did 17 minutes, broken down as follows:

  1. 3 minutes – Warm-up to 8.5 km/h.
  2. 7 minutes – Run at 13.5 km/h.
  3. 4 minutes – Run at 8.5 km/h.
  4. 30 seconds – Run at 12.5 km/h.
  5. 30 seconds – Run at 15.5 km/h.
  6. 2 minutes – Cool-down.

I was amazed at how strong the achilles felt. There was a slight twinge when starting which faded very quickly, and the same when there was an increase in speed. Again, it went away pretty quickly. This was one of those situations where I could have just kept running but I wanted to avoid ‘Too Much Too Soon’, so kept it short and sweet.

Remember, I lasted just 30 seconds last time. The improvement in just a matter of days is wonderful and has given me a LOT of confidence. I actually enjoyed running! The footwear change and Superfeet are doing the business so far, and this is after months of struggling to deal with rehabilitating the injury.

Of course, an important indicator is how I felt after the treadmill session. There was no additional soreness, and when feeling around the achilles and foot it again struck me how much it has improved this week. If anything, it felt a lot more opened up. The ‘Morning After’ test was also a positive: The achilles felt better than the previous morning, and I hadn’t done any exercise then!

I did a quick bent-knee calf-stretch this morning. This has always been the stretch which really aggravated the injury before. Now I can reach my full range of motion with only a tiny feeling of discomfort, as opposed to the ‘Argh, I should NOT be doing this!’ sensation of before.

I need to stay disciplined with this, but this week has been a major step forward. I’m happy!

Taking on my severe overpronation with Superfeet

skeleton-superfeet Recent video gait analysis (and hey, the same sort of thing done years ago) has confirmed that I am severely overpronating. Just looking at the video made me wince, and it has made all the puzzle pieces fit together regarding my achilles tendonitis.

I picked up some properly fitted running shoes at the weekend (in the correct size too, which might help, huh?), and the extra support for my achilles is immediately obvious. I got new football boots too, again in the correct size, but football boots are traditionally very neutral and do not give much, if any, support. I would be continuing to overpronate and send my achilles into oblivion.

What to do?

Well, orthotics can help with this, and my online research had turned up many positive comments about Superfeet. As a result, I popped along to Alexandra Sports to be fitted out (You can just grab them online but the personal touch is always good!).

The fitting

The customer care at Alexandra Sports was excellent. I took along my new boots so the Superfeet insoles could be fully tested. I tried both the blue and black versions. Both are designed for footwear where there isn’t a great amount of free space, even after taking out the original insoles. Football boots fit into this category!

My preference was the blue. Everything fitted nicely (the lady serving trimmed them as required) and they were really comfortable. The blue give more support so it was a done deal.

And here they are (well, one of them!):

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I also have the option of putting these in my running shoes if required. We’ll see.

I performed a quick run on the treadmill with the Superfeet fitted. Wow. NO DISCOMFORT AT ALL. This is a major win for me. Even when the achilles was feeling in a ‘good mood’ I would always be aware of it. During this test, including ramping up the speed to 15 km/h or so (which in itself demonstrated my confidence) everything felt stable. The video replay showed my overpronation had been solved to a huge degree, with my right leg looking pretty normal, although the left leg is still not ideal (it was always the worst, which is ironic considering the right leg was the one that got injured).

Next Steps

As with any shoe change, there has to be a break-in period. I’m wearing one pair of my new boots around with the Superfeet fitted: They are turf shoes (Adidas Mundial Team) which means this doesn’t look weird! I have a 4th official appointment this Friday and then an actual game Saturday.

This is all positive news to take to my consultant tomorrow evening. I just hope he agrees it is positive enough…

Battling with Insertional Achilles Tendonitis

InsertionalAchilles I’ve been struggling with Insertional Achilles Tendonitis since around February. I really need to get it sorted now, so am going to start blogging about it to maintain some sort of focus.

The history is fairly typical for this sort of injury: Overuse. I’ve been running regularly for years as a football referee. In a typical game, I will travel 10 km in a variety of ways: Walking, jogging, running, sprinting, running backwards, changes of direction… It’s all going on! When fully fit I would also be engaging in training runs of between 5 and 10 km, and last year I did the Great South Run (10 miles) with no problems at all.

I used to be a classic heel-strike runner, but switched to a minimalist style last year. I managed to transition pretty quickly and was using that style for about eight months before the achilles issues struck. Transitioning also solved the knee ligament issues I was suffering from in my left leg! Due to the long time period before the achilles issues came on, I’m not blaming the minimalist style here, but I do accept that it does load the achilles more than heel-striking — That’s how it saves the knee joints from being shot to pieces!

So what happened?

Well, over the last winter we had atrocious weather in the UK. Lots of games were postponed. I was lazy and did not keep up my supplementary training runs. Then it was the Christmas break and I didn’t do anything then either, but did put on a bit of weight! When the season started again the weather continued to be bad, so it wasn’t really until February that I was back to full-intensity games. And that was the problem. I went from a sustained period of doing nothing to resuming my usual refereeing intensity, and at that point the tendonitis started. As is typical, there was no sudden ‘BANG’ moment: it was more of a dull that came on the following morning. It never really went away and has persisted since then.

I would class the pain as annoying. It doesn’t impact my performance per se: I can still run, sprint and so on, but I just end up paying for it afterwards or the next day. Doing two activities in two days is really asking for trouble. Basically, it makes me not want to or enjoy training, and that has gotten worse over time. Not because the soreness has gotten worse, more that I am just getting completely fed up with it.

At the end of last season I took a bit of a break, but short-lived. About three weeks. That isn’t very much for an achilles tendon injury from the reading I have been doing. I then needed to train for my fitness test (Cooper Test and sprints), which I passed with no problem. Then another four weeks of rest before I got a bit over confident and did two 5k runs in two days, and the soreness came right back. Not as bad as it has been though, I will say, but again the fact I am not healed is getting tiresome.

I’ve had some physio during this time but I am left feeling that in my case, it isn’t helpful without giving the tendon time to rest first. Calf stretches cause pain due to the tugging on the tendon. It isn’t the ‘nice’ sort of pain you get when you know a stretch is doing you good. It’s the ‘Please don’t do this!’ sort of pain. There seem to be various references that the best thing to do is ACTUALLY REST IT, and certainly don’t try stretching and strengthening until that painful acute stage is over. Common sense, I guess?

The latest is that I have seen a consultant who has taken X-Rays and an Ultrasound. I’m awaiting my follow-up. The X-Ray has not shown anything out of the ordinary: Perhaps a very slight Haglund’s Deformity but it seemed very, very small compared to some of the example ones on the Internet. Besides, this did come on in an ‘overuse’ scenario. The Ultrasound confirmed a very small (1mm or less) tear. I don’t know exactly where yet until the follow-up. The optimist in me sees this as a good thing in a way: A tear can heal, even if it will take a while, and I’d rather it be that rather than some structural failure.

The immediate plan is more rest until the follow-up in a week or so. I won’t know then whether I should commence refereeing in the new season when August swings around. If I have to declare myself injured for a month or two (maybe more?!) then so be it. The important thing is to beat this. Much as I will be chomping at the bit as a result!

Watch this space…

Natural Running: Too Much Too Soon?

I recently took my first steps in natural running. About 5k on a treadmill, to be precise, in order to get a feel for the mid-foot/toe motion as opposed to my usual (very) heavy heel-strike technique. It felt great and so much lighter.

However, the very nature of this style is that the calf muscles and Achilles tendons are having to do more work. They are partly protected in a traditional running shoe as the shoe is taking over! Despite only doing 5k at a gentle pace, I suffered from some bad calf soreness over the weekend which ruled out any further running. Thankfully, it is pretty much back to normal today.

By contrast, my Achilles is just fine and I’m not surprised by this: When I first started football refereeing, I had major problems in that area, even though running was not new to me. Why? Changes of direction and speed. It’s one thing to go out for a jog where your tempo rarely changes. When refereeing, your speed and direction is constantly changing, and my Achilles did not know what hit them! It took a while to settle down, although I did not help particularly by refusing to rest properly. The end result: Strong Achilles.

I need to be more careful with the transition. Today, I intend to do a simple 5k on the treadmill (The weather outside is awful!), but most of it will be in my usual running shoes, with a bit of natural running in the my new Inov8 shoes at the end. A safe mixture. After all, I didn’t get any pain during the previous run: The DOMS came afterwards!

My calf muscles are getting more of a load in other ways too: I’m working on learning jump-rope for conditioning (via CrossFit) and being light on your toes for that necessitates calf-loading!