Gather round children, let me tell you a story about the time I outdid myself in sheer stupidity.
It was a warm summer morning, exactly two weeks after the day I broke my personal distance record and ran 60 km. Another person might have rested on their laurels and, well, rested a few weeks, but not me. Because I, unlike that other, weaker person, am the baddest ultrarunner this side of the Skellefteå river and I eat marathons for breakfast.
Resting is for silly little people who are afraid of silly little things like injuries. Not for immortal, hardcore, joints-of-steel me.
Besides, joints, who needs them! Amiright?
On this fateful warm summer morning, 19 of us gathered in the neighbouring town of Burträsk to run back to Skellefteå on trails, forest roads, tarmac. We were to follow the ”Church path”, a path originally created by people who took themselves to Skellefteå on foot to attend church ceremonies. This training run is organised annually by AIK but I had never had the chance to participate before.
Most of us heathens were in a state of undress because of the heat. I was optimistic enough to believe that I could run in a t-shirt but it didn't take long before I removed that and ran in my sports bra (Psst, foreshadowing).
Everything was perfect. The sun was shining, the woods were bursting with chlorophyll green, treacherous roots and mosquitoes, and people still smelled good. A couple of them were actually in such good spirits that they sang raunchy songs. While they ran.
The inside of my left knee had been pestering me for the last week or so. I had experienced the same kind of problem two years before, when I ran Skövde 6H. Back then, I had been running with excruciating pain for three hours before the problem suddenly disappeared. So I was hopeful that subjecting my knee to the same repetitive motion for three hours would again do the trick.
Surprisingly, it didn't.
While the part of my brain that is not concerned with issues of suffering and discomfort merrily enjoyed the picturesque surroundings and good company, the part that drew the short straw and had to bear the burden of every crazy thing I put it through was hating me with the rage of a thousand angsty punk rockers.
The knee got progressively worse, although it never got to a point where it hurt so much that I couldn't run. I mistakenly chose to interpret this as a good sign and proof that my theory to torture it till it stops torturing me was correct.
So I ran on. We had a couple of support cars following us and people started dropping out. But not me. Like I said, joints of steel.
Our frequent stops started feeling more and more like a curse and less like a welcome respite. Although we got to fill up on water and food, the couple of minutes it took to do so meant that my knees got stiff. Moreover, in the heat, my feet must have started swelling, because before long my left foot started to complain.
It was so hot the tarmac had gone soft at the edges. It was like running on a bouncy castle.
Onwards I continued. I snubbed the car time and time again, my gaze firmly locked somewhere ahead, to the promise of depositing another successful long run to my memory bank. In my mind, my efforts were worthy of an ultrarunning hero. Unbreakable. Untamed. Unfazed by heat and minor niggles like the one turning my left knee into a watermelon.
Somewhere after the thirtieth kilometre, and when the legendary three hour-limit had passed, I started realising that this particular adventure was not going to have a happy ending. If my knee hadn't been injured before, it was now.
Another person might have thrown in the towel at this point and admitted defeat so as not to make matters worse. But me? The baddest ultrarunner this side of Skellefteå river? Nuh-huh! Besides, I had less than 10 km left. I was close.
There is a fine line between determination (which leads to great things) and stupidity (which leads to heartbreak and misery). I had crossed it.
The last few kilometres were on an undulating stretch of road, which relieved a lot of the pressure on my knee. Just like in Skövde, it felt better when I ran uphill. That is why, instead of turning homewards when we ran past my neighbourhood, I continued all the way to the finish line.
After a quick drink and feeling decidedly not so much triumphant as moronic, I thanked my fellow runners and the event organisers and turned to run home. I was feeling too lazy to walk the thousand metres I had to get there.
My right knee joined the chorus of
ungrateful disgruntled body parts and
I limped home to a grand total of 40-odd kilometres. Once there, I
smiled with satisfaction at my latest superhuman achievement. I had
managed to contract four different injuries during a single run (five
if you count the sunburn on my back I got because I removed my t-shirt), more than I sometimes get in a
whole year. Yeah! Yet another personal record I break!
In order of importance and estimated healing time, from mildest to most serious:
- Light sunburn.
- Soreness on the lower back, some swelling, probably from it rubbing against the water belt
- Inside of left knee, hurts to walk down the stairs
- Swelling in top of the left foot, hurts to walk
- Outside of right knee, possible runner's knee
I eat marathons FOR BREAKFAST.