I used to say “I don’t do running”. I was, and still am, a climber. I got into climbing in my early twenties. The best thing about climbing is its too much fun to feel like
exercise. The feeling of moving on rock is hard to sum up, at its best it can be like a graceful dance, more often it’s more like a desperate fight for survival. When the latter, “fun” is often
T"he resulting escape from the base of a sea cliff was an adventure"
After a pendulous swing I bounced hard into a ledge, back-flipped and fell some
more before coming tight on the rope.
In doing so I shattered my Calcaneous – my heel bone. The resulting escape from the base of a sea cliff was an adventure, but not one I wish to relive any time soon.
I was determined this wouldn’t be the case. Once my foot could bear weight I started walking in lunch breaks as well as taking increasingly long walks along the cliffs around Lands End at weekends.
At least this way I could scope out cliffs I hadn’t visited yet. Nine months later I made my first shaky return to climbing.
It was a great feeling to finally get back out there.
One thing you need to know about climbing is that experience counts for a lot. A little bit of technique can, to a point at least, make up for a lack of strength and
The truth was although I’d been fairly active I was a long way from being fit. The months of recovery had made things even worse. I didn’t just want to climb again; I wanted to be better than I was before. To do this I would need to work on my fitness. I started running little bits of my walks.
At first I would count steps; walking sixteen paces and running sixteen, then thirty two and so on. Soon I managed to puff my way around a two mile circuit near work.
Eventually, with a new found focus I climbed harder and longer routes than I had ever done before the accident; all the time though I kept running. I still hated it. But as my fitness improved I began to look forward to running more and more, especially when I could get out on the cliff paths.
In November 2011, a friend at work and I decided to try and run the Classic Quarter trail run as a relay team of four.
I roped in a couple of climbing friends and the plan was hatched. Each runner would have to complete an eleven mile stage. This seemed like a massive challenge and one I wasn’t sure I could achieve. Gradually though the unachievable became possible. Two miles became four, then six and so on.
"Running on the other hand I could fit in early in the morning or during lunch
breaks, in the dark and, crucially, in the rain."
The day came and we ran that relay race. It hurt, I got cramps and hobbled over
the line, but the seed was sown. I was becoming a runner. Climbing was still playing an important part in my life but with a young family it’s never that easy to get out and climb.
Factor in the weather in 2012 and the number of free weekends was slowly dwindling. Running on the other hand I could fit in early in the morning or during lunch breaks, in the dark and, crucially, in the rain. An hour or two running gives me a fix of physical activity and takes me away from the mundane in a way remarkably similar to climbing.
I’m not done with climbing, I don’t think I ever will be, but for now at least the balance has tipped in favour of running.
In the last year I’ve run three half marathons (two trail and one road), a twenty mile trail run and have just run the Duchy marathon. Training for the Duchy
was another wake-up call – for the first time I followed structured training plan, increased my running from three to five times a week and put in up to forty five miles in a week.
A year ago I would have never thought I could have done that kind of training let alone finish a marathon.
In June this year I aim to complete my first ultra marathon. I’m running the Classic Quarter again, but this time as a solo entrant. The course starts at Lizard Point and ends at Lands End and is forty four
I’ve learned that, with a little commitment, we all have it in us to go beyond what we think we are capable of; a long way
beyond. I’m not special and if I
can do it then anyone can.
As for my foot, well I don’t have a limp but I do get a bit of pain after a long run or a day out climbing and my balance isn’t so good on my left foot so the Doctors were partly right, but it’s not stopped me doing what I want.
I’m certainly glad I decided not to take their word and find out for myself where my limits are. I’m currently still