On 25th March I had my 6-week appointment at the fracture clinic for the follow-up X-ray. The crack across the metatarsal was still visible, but a shadowy lump around the crack indicated the creation of a bursar, which is part of the normal healing process. It supports the break while it heals. I have to return after another 6 weeks for a third X-ray on 6th May, and he doesn't want me to do any running until then. (Obviously not in bare feet, but in protective shoes? Hmm, we'll see.)
Things have been looking up recently. After two major downers where I imagined no more running, ever, some recent expert feedback has restored hope. As I still wait for the consultation with the knee surgeon on 9th April, I did not want to leave any stone unturned. I needed reassurance, information, anything other than being left dangling and fearing the worst.
The first glimmer of hope was sparked by information contained in an email from a fellow fan of the running events (thanks Jenny, you were my saviour). Then I made an appointment with my sports physiotherapist (Sport-Med in Stockport). It was the best decision I could have made. I was given a thorough, expert going-over. Even though my knee crunches in the most disgusting manner, which is most likely shown up on the MRI scan as the “minor degeneration”, it is not the cause of my pain. The pain originates from inflamed tendons at the front of the knee underneath the kneecap, and they will not be shown up by the MRI scan. They need ultrasound to reveal them.
Tendons do repair, eventually. I was told around three months. Furthermore, tendons need exercise and a certain degree of discomfort (not outright pain) as part of a healthy repair process in order to build strong fibres. Complete rest is an absolute no-no otherwise weak fibres will form the repair and the tendons will never be up to the job. Within a stroke, normality has returned; pain has regained its normal status as something good and part of the normal healing process (repairable tendon), not bad and cementing with ever more certainty my permanent retirement from running (irreparable cartilage). I now don't have to worry about a painful knee as I cycle to work. Instead I must chose to cycle and embrace the pain, which is good.
I suffer the common runner's problem of muscle imbalance, where core and other muscles are not strong enough to balance the over-developed running (quadriceps) muscles. The result is poor running action and poor tracking of the knees, leading to injury. It is probably worse for someone like me because I do most of my running when tired and everything has flopped and become lazy. I need to strengthen and condition myself such that everything remains solid and in place even when I'm tired. To that end, I have been given exercises to do. As I clench, tense and bend, I must appear to a casual observer as if I'm suffering from a severe case of touching cloth.
The physio made an interesting comment about broken bones – that they take 2 years plus to regain full strength. I'm no football fan but I've heard repeatedly that broken metatarsals are common with footballers. How long are they out of action? Surely not 2 years. Football is far more explosive and stressful on the feet than the ultra-plodding I do, surely. Say they can return in 12 weeks, that must equate to 9 weeks for me? Any feedback gratefully received.
Yesterday I ran up the stairs for the first time in two months. I did it again today. YES! Now I'm wondering which events I can use to ease myself back. I wonder if I could have done The Fellsman after all?