It’s like I’ve never been away.

Sweating. Breathlessness. Aches, strains and pains. Stumbles, fumbles and near tumbles. Late dinners, early nights. Hungry. Tired.  A new pair of running shoes. A target. Over confidence followed by crushing self doubt. Lack of commitment. Too much bloody running. For the second time in 2013, I sit here with days to go to a run, a run where I have decided to try and do something I have only ever achieved once in my life. For March 19th read October 6th. For the Liverpool Half Marathon, read the Standalone 10k. And for getting round in under 90 minutes, make that under 40. It was never supposed to be this way.

As I hinted at back in August, I’ve decided to chuck myself into this one a bit more than I originally intended. I was hoping to spend the late summer weekends out on the bike, swearing blind I could get up Blaze Hill in one go before the nights began to draw in, or maybe some epic half century rides on the flat out to Cheshire. Then, come the last week of September, a couple of jogs to loosen up and then a quick 6.2 miles round the outskirts of Letchworth on October 6th along with my Dad, my sister, my cousin and perhaps my uncle again. A nice, pleasant affair, much like last year, to round 2013 off still basking in the memory of hitting my big target for the year of a sub 1:30 half marathon.

As you all know though, it wasn’t to be. So, with my bike still missing in action, I sat down and decided to get a training plan together. A plan aimed to get my body back into some sort of shape to have a tilt at getting round the 10,000 metre course in less than 40 minutes for only the second time in my entire life. At the last time of writing, I had done a grand total of one run. It had been a horrible three mile affair, involving nearly vomiting in only the second mile and then a couple of days hobbling around with every muscle from the waist down begging for mercy. Just six months earlier I had been able to run five times that figure without suffering too many ill-effects, and now here I was, a pathetic heaving, aching mess after essentially a 5k. I needed to get back in shape.

Nearly two months on and I’m starting to get back into the groove. I’ve now done 25 runs since that awful day in August. The dreaded Sunday LSR is once again a staple of my weekend – a long, slow plod around for up to an hour and a half at a time. Tuesday evenings usually involve of some of the most hellish interval sessions I have ever done. Thursday Fartlek and tempo sessions. Up to six runs a week. And therein (quite literally) lies the rub.

Brooks GTS 13Six months ago, my body could handle this sort of thing. Sure, I felt like sleeping all the time and was eating myself out of house and home, but generally speaking my stupid wispy legs were taking everything I threw at them and then some. This time though it’s different. Those first couple of runs gave me crippling calf pains, no matter how much I warmed up and down. I realised my shoes were knackered so for the first time since I wrote this I welcomed a new pair into the family, my fourth pair of Brooks GTS and bloody lovely they are too. I was so excited to go out in them and hopefully keep the muscle injuries to a minimum. I went out in them. I ran. Within a week my knee felt like it was about to fall off.

Since then, it’s been a case of managing it. I run – it feels like it is going to fall off. I walk downstairs – it feels like it is going to fall off. I’m nearly 32 now. Is this it? Has my body given up on me? I rested it for two weeks, I went for a run and, well, you can guess the rest. Thankfully it has yet to actually fall off. It’s a weird one really. I can’t describe it much other than it feels like someone is smashing the bottom of my kneecap up with a tiny, tiny (but very real) hammer. It’s not constant. It’s not linked to a particular type of running. Fast, slow, interval, tempo, LSR. It doesn’t matter. It just hurts, sometimes. Sometimes I do a hard session and there’s barely a niggle. Sometimes I walk to work and it’s bloody agony. On Sunday I ran twelve miles from Wilmslow to Gatley and back and it only hurt twice. Since then, it’s given me no grief whatsoever. Tonight I ran six miles (including nearly three at around six minutes per mile) and it was absolutely fine. Not a dickybird.

Maybe it’s healed. Maybe it will flare up again something chronic 200 yards into Sunday’s race. Who knows? What I do know is it’s cost me a couple of weeks training when I needed it most. I so wanted to hit a sub-40 this weekend and keep the run of success going this year after obliterating my half marathon PB all the way back in March. Instead, I go into the Standalone 10k with little confidence for the second year in succession. Last year I was ill for the first time in years and had barely trained; this year I have put in over 170 miles to hit a specific target and I have no idea if my body actually will let me do it. I know I’ll get round the course, and most of all I know I’ll enjoy doing it, and boring you all about it afterwards. But can I do something I have not managed to do since May 2009 and drag myself round the thing in under 40 minutes? Let’s just hope my bloody knee doesn’t fall off.