As you get nearer to a race you start ramping up the miles and getting into the longer runs …. . It’s always at this stage that I get worried about getting a slight niggle, or something that could get worse and stop me getting those all too important miles into the legs … I think I would rather actually break my leg at this point … then at least it’s clear-cut. Injuries definitely knock us out of the game, and when I got a sports injury on board ship generally I found my mess mates completely unsympathetic. There was one guy on one ship who smoked 80 ‘tabs’ a day … yup no typo …. eighty. Whenever we used to moan about him forever sloping off to have a tab, he would say that sport was bad for you, and that a sportsman spent more time off work with injuries than he did having a tab in the smoking area on board (affectionately known as the ‘Leper Colony’). Interesting point!

One of the worst injuries I had whilst running, was interestingly not as a direct result of the actual run (like tripping over a ‘ring bolt’ whilst running round the upper deck and twisting my ankle, having an upper deck door opened in my face and nearly breaking my nose or slipping on spilt diesel fuel after a Replenishment at Sea and taking all the skin off my leg falling on the deck – you can see my running track on the photo of HMS Chatham taken in South Georgia). I was running in the RN Cross Country Championships for HMS Collingwood. We were expected to be in the top 3 teams, and I was looking at being one of the top 6 Collingwood runners, thus counting in the overall team points. I suddenly got this massive pain in my chest. I had to stop immediately, sure I’d had a heart attack, but at the same time thinking that’s impossible … I’m really fit! I was sat propped up against a tree holding my chest and a marshal came over (young sailor) who suggested I stay there and not continue running for a bit. Helpful. Thanks for that shipmate. The rest of the field carried on running passed, with the Collingwood guys shouting helpful things like ‘stop loafing’ and ‘get a move on you lazy person of dubious parentage’. After a few minutes the worst of the pain had gone, but I (sensible for me) took a slow walk back up to the sick bay. The Doc did an ECG and made me lie still. He said there was nothing obvious on the ECG and told me to go to the sickbay the following day. I was getting ready to get back on the coach when he changed his mind and put me in an ambulance to hospital to get checked out. Good man because it turned out I had something called Woolf- Parkinson-White syndrome – to do with the electrical pathways in the heart – and totally curable. I’d had it since birth. Many people have it and go through life without it ever causing a problem. So a few weeks later I had a ‘procedure’ and it was all sorted.

Life is a bit like that … bimbling along quite happily and suddenly its all going pete tong – you are stopped in your tracks wondering what on earth has caused it …. could be any number of things, finances, relationships, health, career, addiction … for me thankfully the Doc had the courage of his convictions and got me the expert help I needed. If you are facing something that you can’t see any way through, why not get some help or advice? Like the rest of my team a lot of friends / acquaintances will tell you to ignore it, it’s not a problem, but its always best to speak to a close mate, the Doc, or even the Vicar (!!!) … or of course you can talk to God direct (its called prayer … and you don’t have to go to Church to do it … but it somehow helps to join with others to pray). Sometimes it’s not until you are knocked flat that you start to ask for help. As mates to other guys facing challenges though, can I suggest that we are more like the Doc than the marshal? If you are not sure how to help your mate, get some advice or encourage them to see an expert … don’t just tell them to sit by a tree and hope it all gets better. As a Christian I believe that all of us need to look at how we live our lives and that although following Jesus doesn’t take away all the challenges of life it opens up a comms link to God (who is the ultimate Subject Matter Expert on life) and also a network of support and encouragement through other people who follow Him too – (the people who wander through your area at some unearthly hour on a Sunday morning – not all wearing sandals with socks and singing kum by yah by the way …).
So, I have decided not to pray for a broken leg, but to keep ramping up the miles, watching the beer and crisp intake a bit and look out for other runners who I meet on the canal towpath and offer mutual encouragement … go safe and watch out for ring bolts …