Suzanne Bell – My Road to Recovery – WARNING patience required!

I was a bit apprehensive when Sue asked me write this and share my story. It’s mainly because I run with some pretty amazing people who have been running for years and have so much more experience in relation to training and looking after themselves. I stand in awe of them and what they can achieve.

So here goes, these are the lesson I learned, my experiences as a relatively new runner coping with injury and setbacks.

I started on the C25k plan January 2014, I caught the running bug and was spending all my spare time running. I quickly progressed from 5k to 10k and then after completing a few half marathons in 2014 I decided to train for the Manchester Marathon. My training was going great, I was on a training plan, my pace was improving and my distance increasing. However, by the end of my last two long distance runs I experienced severe cramp in my glutes and hamstrings, which I put down to lack of hydration.

Then during the Trimpell 20 mile race the side of my knee started to hurt and got progressively worse as the miles racked up. As many of us do, I ran through it hoping it would go after the next mile and thinking it would be okay once I had rested for a week; that was on the 20th March, nearly 6 months later I am still working on my rehab back to full fitness.

Since writing this article Suzanne has been accepted in the London Marathon Ballot, with her steady rehab she’s sure to conquer it! 

The first week after resting I decided I would do a 2 mile run, I believed that it would be easy as I had been knocking double mileage figures out of the park for months…I didn’t even manage 1 mile. I continued this cycle for a week or so and I thought if I keep trying to get to the 2 and 3 mile mark it will get better, but it didn’t, I couldn’t even get past the one mile mark. I felt totally demoralised and annoyed that I was getting this pain…I had rested it should be ok! So, I went to the physio sulking but still with hope that they would magically cure it and I would still be able to run the marathon.  Diagnosis – weak glute muscles in the affected leg which had caused my IT Band to inflame causing the knee pain, tight glutes, hamstrings and calf. My first question was “when can I run again???” at which point she shuck her head.   I was advised to rest up and given some stretches.

After a good 8 week rest I started back running, thinking I would easily run 1 mile maybe 2…how exciting. But no, I still couldn’t run without feeling the pain on my knee, many physio visits later and a couple of sessions of acupuncture I was beginning to think I wouldn’t be able to run again. I think what I found harder was seeing everyone training and running and not being around my friends.  I didn’t catch the running bug because I was the fastest or could run the farthest, it was the social side and the friends I had made which made me love running.

I decided to look at what I could do to help myself, I googled the injury and rehab and was totally bombarded with what I should and shouldn’t be doing, so I decided I would pick out what I felt worked for me, I went back to the physio and said “right let’s get back to basics, let’s start running by time and not focussing on the miles”. I set a plan of timed runs that increased and decreased in time which I tweaked based on how the injury felt the day after. I figured that I was running an average 10 min/mile pace, so I planned my first goal to achieve running for 10 minutes.

The plan went like this:


When I got to 20 minutes I set the goal of achieving an extra 10 minutes within 7 days increasing the time as I had done previously, listening to my injury all the time and never going over the time goal for that day. No matter how good I felt or whether I thought I could run further I stuck to the times.

To give me something to concentrate on I decided to look at my running form. Using researched articles and you tube videos etc. I looked at my running, stride and hill running technique which could help me run more efficiently and aid with injury prevention. It also took my mind off focusing on the injury and imagining that I could feel it every time I ran. I felt I needed to change the way I trained as well to improve my fitness and strength, so I introduced other cardio training such as swimming, spin classes and cross training. I do core training on my rest days to build up the hip, glute and tummy muscles either at home or a gym class.

I do a lot of balancing on one leg…strange??… Maybe not! It helps to fine tune the little supporting assister muscles in the foot and lower leg developing the tendons and ligaments which take their time to get stronger.  I have 3 priority stretches which I do every day as often as I can, one for the IT Band, Hamstring and calf, I also ICE my knee everyday even if there is no ache or niggle; to remind me to do these I had resorted to ‘post it’ notes being left around the house but now it’s routine like going out for a run.

I am not 100% injury free, but I already feel stronger than I did before. At the beginning of the year my goal was to run my first marathon, this has had to change but it’s cool, it’s nothing that can’t wait till another year and anyway it all brings about new challenges…Triathlon anyone?? 🙂