And the Walls Came Tumbling Down…

Yup, that’s what’s happened, I’m sorry to say.

This chapter of my occasional blog about the life of an older athlete is going to be as much therapy for me in the writing of a chronology it, as anything. I need to get a few thoughts in order. I’ll share the order of events with you.

A couple of weeks back, I was pleased to be racing at the Masters London Grand Prix – one of two Masters GP events this year. The other was in Sheffield in June, and marked a point in the year for me when I realised I was racing pretty well. I was particularly pleased to be racing at the London event, at the breezy Lee Valley Stadium because I’d had a nasty run-in with vertigo in the previous weeks. I’ve suffered from this for a while. Vertigo isn’t what the media often refer to it as being. It’s not “fear of heights”. That’s acrophobia. No, vertigo is a condition affecting the balance parts of your inner ear, causing all manner of sudden instability, plus sick feelings etc. Mine is triggered by an eczema-related ear infection I suffer from now and again. It’s usually well under control with creams, but just occasionally and without warning, I get struck. I was going to say “I get struck down”, but with severe and sudden vertigo, concepts like “up” and “down” are meaningless. I can recall once lying on the floor, holding on to the carpet in case I fell off it.

Well, the vertigo caused me to miss some training and two planned mid-season competitions, so I was glad to be racing well in the two 100 metres stints I did at Lee Valley. This, owing to missing stuff, was the real start of my “road to Malaga”. It was going to be abrupt, because the only other events on that short road were at the British Masters Championships the following weekend, in Birmingham.

Like I said, I ran well at Lee Valley in my own events. I should have walked away at that point. However, I let myself get involved in organising a squad in a sprint relay at the end of the day. I didn’t warm up very well for this, if I’m honest. As I ran lead-off leg, from nowhere with no warning, the back of my right thigh began to tighten up rather painfully. It seemed I had a small hamstring pull.

Several days of icing, and a chiropractor visit, plus two gentle sessions at the gym, that were spent mostly trying to avoid testing the leg had me feeling it would be ok for racing on at the rapidly upcoming British Championships. The added advantage was that I could get my leg examined by one of the British Masters medics beforehand, and have it taped if necessary.

Cut to the Saturday morning in Birmingham, and that’s what happened. Claudio gave me a workover and a cautious green light, and taped my hamstring and calf. We agreed that, with the Malaga World Masters Championships in sight ten days away, if I had any pain at all when warming up for my 100 metres race later that afternoon, I would pull out of it. We’d already agreed that racing a 200 metres in what was likely to be be pouring rain on the Sunday was a bad idea, and I’d withdrawn from that. The Saturday afternoon was warm and sunny, however, with virtually no wind. Warm up went well, without pain. I took longer over it than usual to ensure everything was properly loose and warm. I also realised, looking at the list of those who were there for the race that, on the basis of recent performances, I had every chance of winning my first ever British Masters outdoor title.

All the pre-race rituals went fine. I set up my starting blocks, and my practice run-out from them felt good. When the gun went for the race, so did I. It was possibly one of my best starts of the season. I’ve included here a few photos of that start, taken by my friend Peter Davey. That’s me in the middle.


But, dear reader, you’re probably ahead of me by now. At 20 metres out I felt really good and, just as I was getting the power down on the track, bingo! My right hamstring simply failed on me. Completely. I stumbled and hopped to a standstill, as the rest of the field raced on. The event was won in a time quite a bit slower than what I’ve been running most of the summer. I still believe it would have been mine to win. But there was me, a lonely figure, limping off the track back up near the start.

I found the ice machine and had a quiet hour in a corner somewhere icing the injured area, while mentally beating myself up about a) running in that relay a week ago, b) not pushing the leg slightly harder in warm up, and c) the realisation that any chance of racing at the World Masters in Malaga in ten days time had just flown out of the window. I limped back to the car park, returned to my hotel, and first thing next morning, drove home. Given how wet it was at the track on Sunday, it was the only good thing I did all weekend.

I’m writing this on the Wednesday after. I still have pain, and a bit of a limp. This time next week, as I write, I’d be due to be taking part in the World Masters 100 metres heats. That is now most definitely not going to happen. I’m still going to Malaga, but only in my capacity as a photographer for World Masters Athletics. Believe me, it is going to be really tough being there as a “non-combatant”. I harboured a fantasy for a few hours yesterday, that all would be better by the time the Worlds reached the sprint relays, and that my form this year would get me into the squad again. But who’s going to take the risk on me? Not sure I would.

My season is over. It started with injury in my first 2017 race, following an injury enforced year out in 2016. I overcame that to have a successful mid-summer – better I think, than I’d really imagined or expected it would be. I’m now going to be a mere bystander for what ought to have been the high point of my competitive year.

If you’re a sports-person who is or has been injured, you’ll understand all this stuff.

2 Responses to “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down…”

  1. Shooting stars made Malaga magical: Photos by Tom, Rob, Dave, Alex and 'Shaggy' - Masters Track & Field News Says:

    […] Brits (mainly) despite his disappointment in not being able to compete in the sprints — having recently ripped his right hammie. “I’ll probably blog something about the life of a photographer at […]

  2. The Colours of the Rainbow | A Blog on a Landscape Says:

    […] This wasn’t quite the visit I’d intended. The story is told in two blogs on my other site, here and here. The good news is that my leg is recovering well. My feet seem to be taking a bit longer. […]

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