I left my heart in San Francisco.
High on a hill it calls to me
to be where little cable cars
climb halfway to the stars!
Sometimes running is about knowing when not to run.
For our second weekend in the Bay Area, Mr Duff and I had signed up for the Healdsburg Half Marathon. The route promised to be 13.1 miles of glorious California wine country vistas, so we had decided to rent a car and get up at 4am to make it to Healdsburg from SF for the yawn inducing start time of 7.30am. We made it to the start on time, but only one of us ran. It wasn’t me.
Mr Duff ran and put in another strong performance, as I knew he would. 33rd place out of 700 runners – what a star. He’s so much stronger and just plain better at this running lark than me!
You see, if there’s one thing we all know about San Francisco it’s that it has a lot of hills. Like, a lot of hills. It must be one of the craziest spots anyone has ever decided to build a city, clinging as it does to the slopes and cliffs above the Golden Gate. The bits that are flat are build on landfill and the bones of old sunken ships, and there’s not a lot of flat bits.
I love San Francisco, but I must admit I find the hills really difficult – and I’m not talking about just when running either.
I mentioned that I’m nursing another injury at the moment. I can’t tell you what it is really, it just seems to be a general and complete shutdown of my right lower leg. Initially it was a minor strain of the tendons on the inner shin. Then just before we came away my calf became permanently tight. Over the last week schlepping up and down the hills of San Francisco has put an added strain on things. My peroneal brevia strain from February has re-emerged and however much I don’t want to say it out loud, it feels very much like I might be developing shin splints. My right knee, always a tricky customer, has been clicking, creaking, and showing signs of stress. My legs are just not strong enough for the constant up and down.
This has all got gradually worse over the past week; it seemed fine after last week’s Bridge to Bridge, and I managed a pleasant gentle 10 miler down a flat route in the week. But a short hill session on Wednesday fired some warning shots down my shin, and since then no amount of icing, stretching, rolling or liberal application of ibuprofen gel seems to touch the pain.
I did parkrun on Saturday, merched up in new Giants branded flappy shorts and running gently enough to take a few snaps to show you how pretty the route is (you absolutely must do this parkrun if you find yourself near Crissy Field on a Saturday at any point – it’s gorgeous and the team are super welcoming. Plus they bring Oreos, and there’s a donut and coffee shack at the finish). My leg felt ok afterwards but I felt like I limped the first quarter of a mile. This didn’t bode well.
In denial, I didn’t mention the possibility of a DNS all day, especially not when we collected our rental car and then spent 2.5 hours trying to find a place to park anywhere between Union Square and North Beach. It is both Fleet Week and Columbus Day weekend. We did not think this through. After so much hassle I really didn’t want to DNS. It couldn’t all be for nothing.
As I’m sure is the case with lots of injuries, it was a totally stupid straw that broke this particular camel’s back. Or leg.
We went to see Beach Blanket Babylon the night before the race. This is a fabulous satirical revue show which has been running in North Beach for 42 years. It has an outstandingly brilliant cast – the singing is really something – and it’s hilariously funny.
It’s toe tappingly good, in fact.
And there’s the rub. I tried not to, but I couldn’t help it. The songs are just so damn catchy. When I woke up at 4am on race day, my leg had gone from being generally painful but sound, to refusing to bear weight. It hurt to put my socks on. Everything just hurt.
I still got all my kit on and even collected my race number and t-shirt, but an experimental jog round the race village decided things. My leg felt weak and painful. I couldn’t possibly run a half on this leg. I briefly considered swapping to the 5k purely to get the medal, but knowing how much work goes into putting on races I didn’t want to cause the organisers trouble by having to stop partway round. Sometimes the bling just isn’t worth it.
So I made the choice to DNS. My first ever DNS.
At this point, we are 4 weeks out from the New York Marathon. Not running this half, no matter how much I was looking forward to it, was the right choice. Two years ago I ran a half on a niggle and was out for 9 months. Honestly, I would rather defer NYC and be able to keep running that destroy myself for the sake of it. It may well come to that. I’m not going to decide whilst I’m in pain and upset. Some serious consultation with both coach and physio will be in order this week.
But I’ll tell you what, I’m actually weirdly proud of myself for my DNS today. It shows I’ve got a bit more sense than I used to and that I’m listening to my body, which is clearly a bit fed up with me at the moment.
I might get ‘DNS’ printed on my un-earned race t-shirt, both as a disclaimer to allow me to wear it, and as a badge of honour for a lesson learned.