I don't get injuries. Actually, let me rephrase that. Other than those caused by acts of stupidity or acute skills failure at untimely moments, I don't get injuries. I don't pull muscles, or get joint pain, or get a bad back. I'd like to think that some of this is down to the fact I at least try to cross-train, going to the gym and working on my overall strength. In reality, I'm sure some of it is down to pure luck, or kind genetics at the very least.
We're in the Lakes, in perfect early autumnal weather, and I am taking myself off to run in the hills for a few hours. I need this. Easing into a gentle pace through the picturesque village of Grasmere, I can already feel a heat in the direct sunlight. My limbs loosen and I look forward to my planned loop: Loughrigg Fell, Fairfield, Grisedale Tarn, Dollywagon Pike and back home. 20 or so solid hill miles. Before I've left the village though, I feel a twinge and a tightening on my right calf. I try to keep my pace, waiting for it loosen again and allow me to continue at my preferred pace. I don't get injuries. Instead, the pain becomes more acute. A little tight walnut of calf muscle that refuses to ease, despite the fact that I've now stopped to stretch it out. I need this run. I need to be outside. I carry on, in discomfort and with a lolloping running style which gradually settles down, but is far from graceful. I march up Loughrigg, unable to put power through my calf and therefore unable to run, although it is steep enough that I would be walking sooner or later, regardless. The views distract me from the niggle and I am simply able to enjoy being in a beautiful part of the world, moving through it. Descents are a clumsy affair. This grates. They are my favourite part of running in the mountains. Flowing and tumbling over rough terrain is both exhilarating and calming. I need this run, so I keep moving.
Climbing Fairfield, I resign myself to walking, but again, don't feel too disappointed. The azure sky frames one of the classic mountain horseshoes and I relax into my pace.
On the summit of Helvellyn I pause for a longer break, stretching out on the stone bench of the walker's shelter. I bask in the sun, sharing small talk with others who have stolen a weekday and been royally rewarded. My cheeks sting with chalky looking dried sweat. My calf is still sore, but other muscles are now chiming wit their own complaints, a symptom of over correcting and nursing my way along the trails. I don't want to leave the summit, but Jelly Baby supplies are low, and I have a little trepidation about the long, long drop to the valley floor and Thirlmere way below. I force myself into a run, very deliberate and careful to begin with, but speeding up, finding what was missing before, as I hop from rock to rock, aching, but happy.
The slog along the valley bottom is exactly that - a slog, but it is worth it. It was a run that I probably shouldn't have done, that I may pay for in the days to come, but I needed it.