It just sank in. I ran a marathon yesterday. Not just a marathon, a trail marathon, and not just 42 kilometers and 195 meters, but even 44 kilometers and 500 meters. That’s even an ultra. At this moment I feel a bit overwhelmed.
I don’t know why it only hits me now. Probably yesterday, in the second half of the Run Forest Run Ommerland, I was mostly in survival mode. I mean, I didn’t have one of my best days. Probably one of my worst. My legs started to get tired after 20 kilometers, while I expected to be able to run 30 kilometers without any problems. 35 on a good day.
That’s why I was in survival mode. The trail was beautiful, but with a burning shoulder after a little fall – why do I always fall on my right shoulder, never my left? – a sore hamstring, and a painful ball of my foot, I had other things on my mind than enjoying my run. Like getting to the finish.
When I crossed the line, Sara and I stumbled back to the cabin for a hot shower, a nice tea and a little siesta. After that it was time to score something to eat in town.
This morning we had a quick breakfast, after which we walked to Ommer Oase, here in the park. Sara had a face massage, and other women’s things, while I went back to the cabin for a tea, a shower and to read a bit. When Sara was done, it was my turn for a massage.
Maybe it was the amazing massage that finally made me relax, but now on the sofa, sitting next to Sara, I suddenly have tears in my eyes. In 1995 I ran my second and last marathon. The Rotterdam Marathon. A couple of months later I started to struggle with an ankle injury. Tarsal tunnel syndrome. Compressed nerves in my right foot, probably caused by too many kicks on my ankle, while playing football.
I can’t remember how many doctors I consulted, but they all told me I should just stop running. It took me almost 10 years to find a doctor that understood what was going on with my ankle. He operated on me. It helped and it didn’t. The numbness and tingling in my foot disappeared, but only as long as I didn’t run. Every time I tried, the numbness came back. So I was told again to stop running.
I did, after several failed attempts to pick it up again. I stopped doing sports on a regular basis in general. Nothing could replace running, until I found yoga, and it’s yoga that has given me back running. See, tarsal tunnel syndrome was only part of the problem. The other part was that I lacked muscle strength in my feet. Having weak ankles as a kid, I had to wear special shoes. Shoes that supported my ankles. As a result, my feet never had to become strong. The shoes did the work for them.
Strong yoga feet
Doing yoga, I needed strong feet. How else am I going to balance on one foot in all kinds of awkward positions? To run I need strong feet as well. I need an arch in my foot to absorb elastic energy when my foot hits the ground and to release it back when I lift my foot. So unknowingly yoga prepared me for running.
A year and a half ago, I tried to run again. I’ve already told you a lot about it in this blog. Yesterday was a personal victory for me. A marathon is something special. And I did it.
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Don’t get me wrong, there are lots and lots of great doctors. My father had heart surgery twice. He lives thanks to the skillful knowledge of amazing people. Yet, lots of general practitioners are not interested in solving problems, just in avoiding problems, in fighting symptoms. So if you have pain while running, they tell you to start biking. If you are depressed, they tell you to take a pill. That’s not solving a problem, that’s pushing it away.
I’m a yogi. I believe in searching for the cause, not in focusing on the consequences. In a strange way I did. I believed there had to be something that could help me run again. Somehow I stumbled upon it. You could say I was lucky, but finding yoga didn’t solve everything. It was just the start.
Pieces of the puzzle
See, even the last year and a half I struggled with my ankles, but slowly I started to put the pieces of the puzzle together. A little less road running, a bit more trail running. Some extra strengthening exercises here, some other shoes there. I decided that if there are no specialists that are willing to help me, I should be my own specialist. Yesterday this specialist ran a marathon, proving many doctors wrong.
So know when to listen to wise people, and when to be the wise one yourself.