I was over halfway when I felt the twinge in my knee. It had a similar vibrational humming sensation to the strumming of a tort harp string. Though this particular tort string was a tendon – and it kind of hurt. The pace started to drop. While the pain was unpleasant, it was nevertheless tolerable. Up until this point I felt I’d been doing ok, but the challenge had now become to complete rather than compete. Not to be deterred, I pushed on; in retrospect, this might not have been the most educated decision.
Some will tell you that 10km isn’t very far and, for a runner, perhaps that’s true. The problem is that I’ve never really liked running: it’s frankly quite tiring, it’s terrible for the joints, and instantly regretted as soon as begun. It’s also quite boring. Runners harp on about the mindfulness of an early morning run, and maybe that’s true, but, as I jog around a cold park in the early hours, my mind is far from tranquil.
The thing is, I am quite good at running. I don’t practice much, but I’ve always been quick. It was this mixed blessing that thrust me into the school cross-country team. Natural ability can breed complacency and, given my lack of willingness to train, I was pretty damn complacent. It was with this mind-set that I approached the 10km Jolly Hog run. The jolliness of the hog had only served to further my false sense of ease. I hadn’t signed up for the event, but nor had I cancelled. “I thought it would be nice to do it all together.” Had proved sufficient inducement for me to accept the enterprise. The warning signs were there, my test run a week earlier hadn’t gone well. Regardless, there I was on a damp Yorkshire winter’s day waiting for the race to begin.
It’s always struck me as odd just how unfit a runner can look. The crowd at the start line were not what you would call in peak shape. It’s very much the go too activity for those looking to lose weight. Perhaps because of this, the field was filled with portly northern couples – all with surprisingly well-defined calves.
I started well. I’d not paid for the pleasure of running before; the Jolly Hog was to be my first such race. Then came my injury. I’d spent half the race jogging past the rotund couples and now it was their turn to overtake. They were the methodical tortoises to my wounded hare; their kindly motivational coxing did little for my wounded pride.
It was about an hour after the race that my left leg ceased to bend. Complacency had been my undoing. The Jolly Hog and portly northern couples had taught me a valuable lesson in humility. The race over, it was time for hospital. The strum across the hamstrings hand been my lesson, two weeks of recovery later and I could bend as normal: and so I ended my Christmas, chastened and yet mobile.