If you’ve been following my blog you will know I’ve taking up running. I was using the NHS Couch to 5k running app. I find running less “ouch” than walking, because for the last 19 months I’ve had a dodgy left foot. My left big toe joint has been painful and inflammed. My first blog post explains I overcame my shyness and, quite frankly, my itchiness to get started on this running programme. My second blog post tells how I re-started the programme after a long break caused by a flare-up in my foot. I’ve decided in future not to blog too much personal stuff – I don’t want to be accused of over-sharing – but I don’t want to leave you hanging. So for now it’s time for an update.
I started using the NHS Couch to 5k app in January and it’s a nine-week long programme. Eight months later I have not completed it, despite running two or three times per week when my foot allows. I’ve had to go backwards a couple of weeks each time I was forced to take a break. Then, quite honestly, I found after the end of week 5 of the programme that the running became tougher. I wrote about it in my second Ouch to 5k blog post. I followed the NHS advice to repeat some days or weeks to build stamina more sustainably. So you will understand that I was delighted to reach the end of week 7! I was running two to three times a week for 25 minutes.
But something didn’t feel right. It wasn’t getting any easier. I realised I’m going slower, my stride got even shorter. 25 minutes of running was about 4km of distance but a week later I’d only managed 3.5km in that much time. I’ve also noticed that I’m walking even more slowly, and it turns out that the top of my toe joint is extremely tender to touch. So it was in this condition that I went to an appointment with the Podiatry consultant at the hospital. Its taken 7 months to get this appointment, which was a referral from another podiatrist whom I had waited 4 months to see, who was in turn a referral from a podiatrist whom I had waited 5 months to see. The pace of referral was even more leisurely than my walking pace!
The consultant suspected a cyst inside my toe joint. I was given a steriod injection that hurt so incredibly much I lost my marbles and actually jammed my phone in my mouth and bit down hard. I began to black out and the phone fell out of my mouth. It was all over in a minute! I limped out of the clinic, ridiculously hopeful that this treatment would work.
Things definitely improved after two weeks and two more weeks after that I felt fantastic! Some “ouch” on a bad day (or in bad shoes) but much better overall. Then the steroid wore off and it went downhill a little. It’s still far better than it was, less painful and swollen to touch. At my follow-up appointment I got a telling-off for not buying better shoes (I’ve been too busy! *whine*). It’s not all better and there are suspicious clicks, but the consultant was fairly pleased. However, then I received The Threat.
What is The Threat, you ask? He said if I don’t rest my foot, or if I use it when it hurts, and if I don’t buy much better shoes, then I will be put in a cast for six weeks to immobilise the toe. A cast! I’m aghast! (sorry-not-sorry) He also said I can’t go on hikes or walks for pleasure. You won’t see me dancing (lucky you). And if that doesn’t work, it’s surgery (properly ouch!).
My Couch to 5km is over having reached only the 4km mark. What a pity. I do hope I make it one day, but I’m not sure if maybe that’s the end. I didn’t dare ask the killer question “will I ever run again?” just in case the answer was “no”. I am not ready to hear that yet. For now I’m going to have to get back on my bike if I want any exercise.
If you want to use the NHS Couch to 5k app here are some pointers:
- You’ll need a deep pocket, arm strap or bum-bag to carry your phone. Don’t carry it in your hand and don’t do what I did and put it in a shallow pocket from where it fell out!
- Don’t bother taking water with you, it’s only about 30 minutes and you won’t get too hot unless … (read the next point)
- Don’t run in hot weather unless you have trained for it! Go early in the morning instead. A more common hazard are slippy pavements in the damp or cold.
- It’s hard on your knees and your feet so wear good trainers. This applies to everyone, not just those with injuries.
- The app lets you play music from your phone in the background. Take time to prepare a playlist, it will really lift you!
- If you have to stop for a few weeks, backtrack at least two weeks in the programme when you start again.