There are NO words to describe the happiness I feel right now!
This morning, I took part in the Wilmslow Festive 10k, organised by Run North West. My results were definitely nothing to write home about and were by far my worst ever in terms of competitive running (43 minutes and 4 seconds), but absolutely nothing is knocking this grin off my face! 😍
Eight weeks ago today, I got injured doing the virtual London Marathon. Six weeks ago, I pushed my body too far while still injured and did further damage while forcing myself round the Knutsford 10k. After that fateful race, even walking was painstaking. With agonising anxiety, I knew that I had to take a break from running.
The first few weeks were unbearable and my anorexia was through the roof. My self-worth completely crashed and I felt horrifically low without the freedom of running to turn to. The voice of anorexia was louder than ever now that it didn’t have to compete with the calming, methodical pounding of my feet.
I was literally doing all I could to get back out there: physio, shockwave therapy, knee-braces, salt baths, decorating my thighs with foam-rolling-induced bruising, and preventing Boots from feeling the wrath of the impending recession by buying out their entire back-stock of Voltarol...
When I first realised the seriousness of my injury, I vowed to starve myself to compensate for my lack of running, henceforth hoping to prevent the 55 stone weight gain, loss of job, loss of house, global warming, the discovery of 9-foot tarantulas, quadruple mutant Covid, double TB and whatever other negativity I thought would befall me if I took my foot off the gas for a split second.
Losing control was hard and yes, it did trigger my anorexia, but none of the above happened. The world didn’t end! And, guess what?! I didn’t even need to stop eating to hold back the imagined tsunami of disasters that I envisioned cascading over my life.
As detailed in my Running Rehab https://www.carajasminebradley.com/post/running-rehab
blog, I made the decision to stop meticulously weighing myself each and every morning. I’m pleased to say that I still haven’t been near the scales, which has been hugely freeing for me.
The combined triumphs of retaining my usual eating habits and refusing to obsessively weigh myself are MASSIVE milestones in my anorexia journey.
While injured, my mission was to get my latest book finished so that I was at least doing something productive with my time, however this proved impossible. I felt so deflated and jittery without my running that I couldn’t concentrate on anything.
Instead of finalising the last few chapters of my book, I fell down that illusive rabbit hole of the World Wide Web... I went from simply Googling ‘Runners knee’ to ending up sifting through internet horror stories involving amputations and consequential paralysis.
I mean, it’s not like me to be dramatic or anything (...!), but every night I was working myself up into such a bloody state that I was genuinely convinced that I’d NEVER run again. I just kind of presumed that I’d be one of those unlucky people who got injured and never recovered. (I literally had no evidence whatsoever to support this vivid self-diagnosis, but now you see how anorexia-anxiety works its black magic!)
On the 1st November, I started running again. At first, I simply tried a few very cautious 5ks which were still disappointingly painful.
But with further shockwave therapy (seriously, if you’re a runner and you have ANY sort of pain, I’d highly recommend looking into this treatment!) and invaluable advice from my movement coach, David, the pain started to reduce, slowly but surely.
I’m not 100% pain free, but I’m certainly on the mend, and that shard of hope is more than enough for me.
It has only been over the past week or so that I have really felt an improvement in my knee. My times have been getting back to near-normal over the 5k distance and I’d even managed some longer distance runs with bearable levels of pain.
Having begrudgingly withdrawn my Tatton Park Half Marathon entry at the start of the month, I knew I was now ready to race again.
It would have been amazing to end the season with a PB, but I had to be realistic: just getting round the course without any severe aggro from my knee would be an achievement.
So I took things easy. I fell into a comfortable stride somewhere between the 40 and 45 minute pacers and rarely altered my speed throughout. At times, it was tempting to just charge ahead, but I knew that would be unwise. The rest of my body was like ‘HELL YEAHHHH! I’M BACK!!!’ while bombing down the road to the tune of Mamma Said Knock You Out by LL Cool J (DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK!), while my knee kept reminding me to take my time. The very last thing I wanted was to cross the line in the same state as I was in after the Knutsford 10k.
As my injury is patella-based, the pain tends to be triggered by hills. There was one cruel little surprise hill on the course at around 9k, which is when my knee gave a slight twinge, but apart from that, I went the entire run pain-free! And I can’t even tell you how incredible that felt.
The run was absolutely brilliant. I relished every second of being back within the community that has taught me to thrive and believe in myself.
If you’re a regular on my running blogs, you’ll know that I always get weirdly emosh during races. 🤣 Like, I’m aware of how bizarre this sounds, but I always have odd little epiphanies about how running has saved my life, and I end up having a little cry to myself as I cruise along.
(What can I say – I’m an overly-emotional woman! I also weep at any TV advert that depicts cartoon vegetables. The other day, my husband and I got into a discussion about who our favourite Pokemon were when we were young... Bawled my eyes out for about an hour upon remembering Togepi in his little shell. Haven’t watched or thought about Pokemon since about 2001, but there I was, an absolute emotional wreck. Perplexing 🤣)
Anyway, today was no different and I was just high on emotion. I just loved immersing myself back in the running world this morning, from walking through Wilmslow Town Centre after the race in line with 4,000 others all sporting foil blankets, to hearing the beautiful choir sing at the side of the course.
There’s just no better feeling than hearing that muffled microphone calling your name with mere metres to go, knowing you’ve done it, then picking up the pace and striding across the grooves in the finish line. It’s the BEST feeling in the world. ❤
After the Knutsford 10k, I was bitterly disappointed with my time of 41 minutes and 53 seconds. I’d enjoyed months of beating my PBs week after week, finally taking my 10k time down to 40 minutes and 24 seconds.
Today, despite being 2 minutes and 40 seconds off my PB, I couldn’t have been prouder of my body, or prouder of myself for listening to it for the first time in YEARS. Sometimes it’s hard to hear your own mind and logic over anorexia’s shrieks, but while injured, I knew that I owed it to my body to look after and protect it. It was the very least I could do for it after all it has done for me during this running season alone.
Anorexia snarled as I hung my medal around my neck, hissing that I should feel ashamed of my time and that I had proven myself to be a failure. The sound of the amazing choir aptly singing Titanium by David Guetta drowned out anorexia and its pessimism as I said a silent thank you to my body for getting me round the course and once again leaving me awestruck with its gritty resilience.
You shoot me down, but I won’t fall – I am titanium.
The Wilmslow Festive 10k was my last competitive run of 2021, and marked the close of the most miraculous running season! Since April, I have smashed my personal bests in every single distance, but more importantly, I have been given a lifeline.
Participating in competitive running has completely changed my life this year. I never saw this coming, but after seven and a half years of anorexia, something has come to save me, to give me faith and hope. I now have something tangible to hang on to when times get hard, and it’s the most unreal revelation.
I literally can’t even begin to describe how much running means to me. The utopia that it brings to my life and the calm it blesses my body with is comparable only to pure magic.
It’s like that feeling you get when the plane speeds up along the runway and leaves the ground, suspending you in mid-air. It‘s flying; defying gravity.
It’s like the beat dropping in Faithless’s song God Is A DJ.
It’s like free-falling though a montage of the best moments of your life.
It’s just like this godly force that takes over your body and lifts you high above the ground, so far away from the outside world and all of its niggling worries.
It is, quite simply, freedom defined.
Running is my miracle cure.
2021 Season PB’s & Highlights:
💥 5k: 21 minutes & 02 seconds
💥 10k: 40 minutes & 24 seconds
💥 Half Marathon: 1 hour & 39 minutes
💥 Full Marathon: 3 hours & 32 minutes
🏃🏻♀️ First Place Female in the Stockport Urban 5k
🏃🏽♀️ First Place Female in the Tatton Park 10k
🏃🏽♀️ Placed 8th Female out of 962 in the Knutsford 10k (while injured!!)
🏃🏽♀️ Completed two full marathons, plus a half marathon pretty much every weekend before I got injured.
* The cover photo for this blog shows the medals I have received this season, plus my lovely trophy from the Stockport 5k, and my
framed winning number & medal from the Tatton 10k 🥰❣️
Cara Jasmine Bradley