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The reality of an injury and not making it to the start line - Sophie Vowden

For some of us this year, the London Marathon just wasn’t on the cards. Unfortunately for me I had to succumb to the fact my knee injuries were too severe to endure 26.2 miles.

Honestly, it has been an extremely tough journey and I haven’t discussed it much until now.

The psychology of having to cope and overcome an injury, especially when you are training for something so important to you, is very difficult.

You think about the marathon literally every day, discussing it with other people, dreaming of what it feels like to cross the finish line, supporting an amazing local charity...

But this year just wasn’t meant to be.

So what happened?

In 2001, I damaged my left knee playing netball - nerve damage, ligament damage and a fracture. Since then I have been left with permanent nerve damage - the saphenous nerve on the inside of the knee.

During certain movements it feels as though the kneecap is going to dislocate. You have absolutely no warning - it can occur lying in bed, weight lifting, standing, running.

During my marathon training, it was fairly calm, until I started reaching 16+ miles.

The saphenous nerve is a branch of the femoral nerve - originating around the hips - thus when my hips become tight, the nerve can become compromised.

Unfortunately on 31 March whilst attempting a 20 mile run with the Orion Harriers, having run 16 miles the week before, I over compensated so much so, the right knee flared up.

I couldn’t walk properly without severe pain - up and down stairs was impossible - thus I had to side step or walk backwards.

I knew I was in a pickle. I rested, took my own advice and booked an ultrasound scan with one of my previous Team GB physiotherapists. I had an ultrasound scan on both knees, identifying knee synovitis.

The knee joint is lined with a membrane - called a synovial membrane. This amazing membrane cleverly secretes fluid in the knee joint allowing the knee to glide. Unfortunately I had aggravated both membranes causing inflammation and severe pain. We decided to go ahead and inject the right knee with steroid and saline, but not the left knee in case this created further aggravation to the nerve.

Now it was a waiting game. From then on, I knew ‘running’ the marathon was not an option, but hopefully walking 26.2 miles would be achievable. However, seven days before race day, I decided to defer - my knees were still not pain-free when walking and I just had to accept it.

So what now?

Thanks to the amazing Emma from St Clare Hospice, the charity has kindly allowed me to defer to 2020, continuing to raise funds for the hospice.

Can I take this opportunity to thank everyone who has kindly donated to the St Clare Hospice so far - I am so incredibly grateful.

I have raised £1,815.70 of my £2,000 so far and I plan to keep fundraising right through to April 2020!

For those of you who have been in a similar position in the past, you feel incredibly guilty when friends and loved ones have kindly sponsored you for an epic event, yet you fail to deliver. I am sorry for this, but I am determined 2020 will be a success.

For now, I am being patient and respectful to my knees.

I am following my Relative Rest programme - ceased any movements which cause a large degree of pain - running, rowing, cycling, jumping, skipping, deep heavy squatting.

I will be patient and envisage a 4 - 6 month period of rest from running. I am strengthening my core, glutes and hamstrings, as well as undertaking regular stretching and foam rolling.

I truly am following my advice, as painful as it is!

So, here’s to 2020! For all our clients who had to defer as well, for those clients who didn’t make it to the finish line this year - let's dig deep, take a moment and get on with it. We’ve got a lot to do!

Sophie Vowden

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