Defying the laws of gravity

Today’s feel-good Monday song is Queen. Few bands make me feel as good as Queen do. What I like best is the wonder of Freddie’s flamboyant vocals and style compared with Brian May – who’s really one of those geeky guys who spend most of their time in their library or in their bedroom practising guitar and never playing. It’s almost like a science to him.

And my favourite Monday song from Queen?

Don’t Stop Me Now

It’s like a shot of Cuban expresso followed by a full-fat coke and a packet of Haribo sours. When I used to run a lot, I’d set this as my ipod track for about the end of the second hour, when I used to hit ‘the wall’. How did I ever run for two hours? I must have been bonkers! I got to the point where an hour didn’t seem very long at all and it just wasn’t enough. It used to give me great pleasure to just stick my ipod on and run – start off with some quick beats to get me going and then end up with some power tracks to push me through the wall. I used to feel like I could run for ever when I was listening to this track.

I could have, as well.

It was when I stopped that it all started hurting. Endorphins are great. Our body’s own opium to get you through pain. That’s why the running felt great and it didn’t feel so good after. It started with creaking Achilles’ tendons, then aching feet. Those first few steps when I’d get out of bed, I’d hobble around like an old lady – whether I’d been running the day before or not. I went to my doctor first. I’d explained the problem and then he said I’d got something called plantar fasciitis – the thing that holds the muscle and skin to the bone was aggravated on my feet. I got a podiatrist appointment with the NHS. He told me a) running was banned and b) I was to lose a third of my body weight. I weighed nine stone, so that would have been three stone, pushing me into severe anorexia. I’ve been seven stone and I was extremely ill. I was proud of being nine stone. It was a lot of muscle tissue. I’d started at eight stone when I started training, and I was still in the same dress sizes, just a stone heavier. No flab on me. Thunder thighs!

I cried for three days. No running. Then I realised the podiatrist was ridiculous.

I went to my trusted physio. He’s the only physio Freddie (Andrew Flintoff) will have, and the man is an absolute genius. I’d come back from Japan one time in absolute agony. I’d done the Nagano marathon course – mostly hilly terrain and one of the most demanding I’d done. It took me about three hours thirty – one of my longer marathon times – and then I’d spent four days walking everywhere in Tokyo. By the time it came to fifteen hours of sitting down for the return flight, I was in pieces. I got back and went straight to the physio – my hip flexors felt like they’d been tightened and would not release.

“Lie on your front,” he bossed me. Physios are the only people who ever get to boss me.

“But it’s my hip flexors.”

“Just lie on your front.” He started getting out the ultrasound and the heat lamp.

“My hip flexors are here…” I pointed, petulantly, to the aching part. Maybe I really thought he didn’t know where hip flexors were. Seven years of training and the man doesn’t know where hip flexors are.

“Do as you’re told.”

I did.

Twenty minutes later, I popped off that table like he’d given me new hip flexors. It was seriously like Jesus curing the lame. In fact, maybe Jesus was a physio. I tend to exaggerate, but I had been a cripple when I walked in, and twenty minutes later, I was walking, running even. Turned out it was a trapped nerve round my spine. He was the one responsible for getting a ‘malingering’ footballer back onto the pitch when no other physio could. Same problem.

So Much Love to that physio.

Anyway, he set me up with a great podiatrist who gave me orthotics and I continued to run for another two years. The man was David Beckham’s podiatrist when he was at Manchester United, and the hundred quid I paid for those orthotics was among the best one hundred quid I ever spent.

Two years later, not even physios can sort out stress fractures in feet. Only 18 months off my feet could do that. Unfortunately, I piled on the weight. Yes, running an hour a day for 4 days a week, and having a three hour run both weekend days – not such a good idea for legs, or for metabolism. And my feet still hurt. I walk like a grandma when I’ve been sitting down for a while, and I still can’t wear heels.

Anyway, Queen remind me of those fab days running out towards Horwich, days of sunshine and spring, of feeling A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

Here’s my Much Love Monday Poem – it’s Edna St Vincent Millay – a precocious poet who’s one of my favourites for writing gushy, emotional poetry. Only the young write like this. She’s gets emotion though. Anyone who’s known death or heartbreak will feel this poem!

Sonnet II

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide

There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,—so with his memory they brim
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him!

Edna St. Vincent Millay
Sometimes I feel a bit like this. I found a page of plants I’d written down, a list of shrubs. When I opened it up full, I’d written it on the back of something Andy had written – these unexpected found words always bring me to tears – if only for the sadness of a young life that is no more. I’d rather find a hundred a day than find none, though.
This is from an art journal I found online. It’s so beautiful. I need to start art journaling. It’s right up my street!


6 thoughts on “Defying the laws of gravity

  1. Impressive, this story!!! I love Haribo sours. I had to give up on them as I eat too much. I have a question: what are hip flexors and where do you feel the pain when they hurt?

  2. What an interesting story Justine. I’m sorry you’re unable to run any longer, as clearly you used to love it. I too have recently given up running, though I was by no means a runner like you. Now I walk really fast, which is why I wait until after dark to get out for my exercise, because I’m sure I look pretty special. I wish others would begin speed walking more around here so that it would be more of a common sight to see.

    Wishing you a happy Monday,

    1. Speed walking does look a little funny, it has to be said. Though it gives me shin splints in the most unfortunate ways. Luckily, digging and weeding are a full-time activity that fill my empty exercise hours!

  3. Physios are absolute geniuses, aren’t they? ‘Is your big toe numb?’ ‘Yes’ – ‘Then press here really hard – yes I know it hurts – keep it up for 10 minutes’ – turns out to be sciatica and they’ve sorted it!

    1. I think the physio has healed me more times than I care to remember. They’re geniuses. If I had to take a physio or a doctor to a desert island, it’d be a physio, hands down.

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