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Hanging up my racing shoes…

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

This Sunday saw me in Bern for the Frauenlauf – the women’s running event I run in every year. As usual I went with my running buddies and their daughters – I say ‘their’ because this year neither of mine came with us – one was injured and the other preparing for a school trip to Ireland leaving the same day.

After my knee injury in the winter I’m anything but fit – so took it at a gentle pace, struggled awfully with the heat and humidity that descended suddenly once we started running and finished 5 minutes slower than last year – 58 minutes for 10km – which I was quite happy with given how unfit I still am.

We trundled off home on the train and by the time I got there I was feeling pretty rough – and spent the rest of the day and evening in bed (thereby missing the football matches on TV that I’d been looking forward to!) with the headache to end all headaches and on which no painkiller known to man seemed to have any effect. I should tell you that this happens a lot, infact it always happens after a race. I’ve talked to doctors, tried alternative cures, eaten and drunk special preparations, everything you can imagine over the years. I can definitively say that it’s nothing to do with hydration, but maybe blood pressure or my histamine intolerance play a role. Whichever way is up, it always happens and wipes me out for about a day after a race. It is utterly, utterly miserable.

On Sunday I came to the conclusion that this has to stop. It’s ridiculous to make myself ill like this. There’s no point in running in a race where I don’t push myself – infact I’m not sure that I could stop myself – but making myself ill is just stupid. I absolutely LOVE racing. It’s the only area of my life where my insane competitiveness is still to be found and I really get a kick out of it. But without a doubt, my body is saying no. Maybe my mind is stronger than my body, but I think the time has come to listen to what my body is saying to me.

So I’m stopping. After more years than I can count I’m going to call time on races. I’ll still go running in the woods, because I love that and if I don’t go too far or too fast that doesn’t seem to be a problem, but barring didly little charity races, that’s it. I’m done. Enough is enough.

I’ll be 50 next year. I guess it’s time to be sensible.


12 Responses to “Hanging up my racing shoes…”

  1. Susan Says:

    A very hard decision to make I am sure. But if you can still have the joy you find in running without the crap bit you get from racing then there is still lots of good stuff left.

  2. Gertie Pye Says:

    I think you have done very well to keep up proper running for this long! Unless I see my train coming into the platform, I don’t think I run at all. My left knee always seems to be threatening to ping and that’s all the excuse I need. Do you still get the headaches after a leisurely jog? I hope you find a way to still get a buzz from a little run without the unbearable headaches.

  3. Dianne Neale Says:

    I’m so sorry that you’ve got to give it up, but there is no point inmaking yourself ill. At least you can carry on running. We’ll have to find another outlet for your competitive streak. Extreme knitting. Quilting competitions. I belive they can get quite heated!

  4. Stephanie Says:

    It sounds like the right decision, Helen, hard as it is. I was reluctant to stop competitive swimming but when I got pregnant with Rors at 38 I decided now was the sensible time. Training and competitions took a lot of energy which I needed now for him. I’d been ten years younger first time I became a mum so energy wasn’t a problem then, but it was starting to catch up with me third time round! You can still run to keep fit, like I swim, but without the flattening races.
    And extreme knitting sounds like the perfect sport for you!

  5. Emily @Strawberry Patch Says:

    Oh Helen, I am so sorry to hear that, as an ex-runner (and hope to be again runner when the kids are older!) I know the void it leaves. My Dad is 58 and is STILL running ultra-marathons, he just cannot give it up, despite a heart scare and many injuries, I know he wouldn’t be my Dad without it. Hope you can find a balance that gives you the buzz and doesn’t hurt!
    Emily x

  6. diane stanley Says:

    Sensibility out wins competitive spirit. I have a friend that I wish would do this. She is constantly injured, at 55 she runs about 25 marathons a year! I am glad you feel better and get so much pleasure from running in the woods. That’s what matters the most, not racing.

  7. Tanya Says:

    Oh no – this must have been a really tough decision. I think you are brill to have run so much and done so many races…… enjoy the more picturesque woodland routes, and we’ll have to think of another area to make use of your competitive spirit…. sewing contests maybe! x

  8. Flying Blind Says:

    Hard decision. Hey who wants to win anyway? (Did that sound convincing?) x

  9. Katy Says:

    It’s hard to give up something you love like that, but sometimes you have to call it a day. I very reluctantly gave up rowing when it became apparent that with a full time job 40 miles from home, I just didn’t have the time to train like I did as a student (and, in fact, as other students I was racing still were!). I’d only done running as cross training for rowing, but my doctor banned me after my 3rd half marathon because my hyper-mobile joints just didn’t have the padding to support that kind of continuous impact, and at the end of a race both hips and both knees were grinding o.O Enjoy your runs in the woods in the meantime 🙂

  10. Shelley Says:

    Helen, sounds like a tough situation to be in and a tough decision, but you have to make the decision that works for you. Glad you don’t have to give up running altogether though. Enjoy the trail runs!

  11. Leanne Says:

    I hope you find the right balance so you can keep up the running but not push to the point of the headaches, and maybe there is another sport that would work for the competition? I am not convinced about extreme knitting and quilting but who knows?

  12. Fleur Cotton Says:

    Hi Helen, Sorry to hear about your decision about ending racing. Perhaps in a few months you may feel differently … you have only just started running again after your knee injury so perhaps it was just too soon to start racing again. At the end of the summer see how you feel, after a summer of running for pleasure you may find that you are feeling fitter and can have another go at racing ….never say never!!

    Fleur xx