Well, I didn’t fall flat but I stumbled enough to make my ankle twist and shake me up.
It was a cross country run; puddles, mud and potholes. I was going downhill. I was weaving, going a fair pace. It was a small puddle. Instead of weaving it I take a big step, a leap over. The mud gives way to my right foot which in that moment supported my body weight. The mud slid and I went with it. My ankle bends to stop me falling. I slide back and my hands go out to stop the fall happening. I end up in a starter position, looking like I’m waiting for the gun to go off. I’m relieved that aside from a pair of muddy palms and mud on the side of my shoe I am unscathed, spared the humiliation of a mud covered face through housing estates.
Then the pain hits.
My ankle interrupts my momentary relief to alert me to the odd position it is in. It starts as a murmur and quickly escalates to a scream of pain. I realise it twisted much more than was safe. I can feel the unnaturalness of what it has done and I am sorry.
Ultimately I am fine, there is not a breakage, nothing out of place and I will live to fight other puddle based battles, but my nerve has gone.
They say running is a mental test and I would agree. The mental will to keep going km by km, mile by mile is what separates you from success and failure. I feel I have conquered my will when it comes to going forward but I have a new beast in my way. Hills.
It’s not going up hills that bothers me, walking or running. Its going down. I am convinced I will fall, smash my head open and die… Quite melodramatic I know but it is a fear none the less.
It started in China. The private school I worked at had marble floors everywhere which is not very ‘health and safety’ when all the corridors were outside, summers have rain daily and the winters are foggy and damp. I worried when kids were slipping and sliding all over. I slipped myself a few times and each time I walked a little slower and held on a lot more. It developed into a fear of going downward generally, hills, stairs, small dips, the lot. Climbing the great wall was amazing… Up until I went up a staircase, looked down and the panicked about going downstairs.
Running roads in Scotland has seen a development of this fear, either avoiding down hill sections completely or walking down only. Mum pointed out ‘won’t your races have down hill bits?’. Damn. I couldn’t avoid it forever.
I have started slowly to incorporate these parts, watching my step and taking my time.
Today was a disaster. I slipped and hurt my ankle trying to overcome the thing I was scared of, reinforcing the fear. I limped home and put some ice on my ankle where a faint bruise looked like it was developing. I frantically Pinterest searched for tips and set about various rubbing and stretching to make sure I wouldn’t be hurt long term. I limped around the living room. Damn damn damn! No no no!
That night I went out to run 5k again in sheer defiance. It was probably a terrible move medically and I would probably be doing more damage but my nerves couldn’t hack the failure.
I ran up. I ran. Screams from my ankle. I ran down. I ran. I didn’t think about the hills. I stumbled once on a pavement kerb but kept going. I was not going to let the fear of falling get me. No. Falling is temporary. Success is long lasting.
I did it. I got home and sat down, ignoring my screaming ankle. I write this now and am still ignoring its intermittent tantrums. I’ll be fine. No matter.
Stand up to your fear. It’s not fixing itself you know.