Time off from running

A pile of broken watches, overlaid by the Ordinary Runner logo

Running or injury

There’s running and there’s injury. When you’re running, you’re running. When you’re injured, you’re still running until you can’t run anymore. Then you’re miserable.

There’s rarely not running and not injury. And yet, despite having no injury, I’m taking time off from running. Three weeks off to be precise. At least, that’s the plan.

Not injury

I’ve been injury-free for three months. Sure, I’ve had niggles – I always have niggles. But, unusually, there’s been nothing to stop me running. My right knee, so often the villain, has behaved. A big toe developed an ache that turned into a pain that threatened to become agony. Then it got better.

Yes, it’s been three months with no races. But I haven’t slacked. I’ve trained for, and run, a half marathon. I’ve done regular intervals and tempo runs. And I’ve joined the not parkrun movement.

Three runs a week have taken me over 230 miles. A walk in the park for some, it’s 40% of my annual target. It makes me wonder what I could achieve if time and these creaky old bones weren’t a factor. Best not to dwell on it, perhaps.

It's time for (not) parkrun!

Going backwards

It seems backwards to take time off when there’s no injury. And yet, that’s what I’m doing. It’s daunting in many ways. Not running because of injury is misery-inducing. Not running without injury feels faintly masochistic.

The point, though, is that injury seems inevitable. Despite everything I said here, I’ve listened to the cracks and pops and stopped before injury arrives. That knackered old knee. A sore big toe. Tight calf muscles. Even the dull ache across the bottom of my back. Each feels like the future echo of “I told you so”.

Backwards it may be. But it still feels right, however wrong it feels.


Question mark made out of lights using long exposure photography
Image by Emily Morter on Unsplash

Since I decided on not running, I’ve asked myself some questions:

Q: How do I maintain fitness?

A: I probably don’t.

Q: How do I keep my belly in check?

A: I probably don’t.

Q: What about my brain?

A: What about it?

Q: You know – stress, escape. All that stuff.

A: Um. Suppress it?

Q: Doesn’t sound like a good idea.

A: Yeah, well, I thought you were here to ask questions.

Q: I thought you were here to give answers.



A: Shall we move on?

Q: Yes.

Not running

So, what do I do instead of running? At forty-four, I expect my fitness to drop. With the clocks going back and the weather turning sour, my appetite will increase. All that leads to a repeat of the belly I cultivated in lockdown.

So, what do I do? Cycling’s no substitute. It takes too long and it’s too stressful. Besides, I really dislike cycling. Swimming’s been my fall back in the past. But right now, with Covid-19 in the world, I don’t fancy it. It’s not that I’m afraid to visit the pool. It’s just that swimming is another thing that seems like too much hassle.

Discarded running shoes next to a dirt track
Image by Mario Be on Pixabay

So, what? Well, I always enjoy a walk. It’s not the same as running, but it’s a close second. Then there’s strength and stretching. Planks, push ups… other things like that. That stuff is important. I should probably do that.

So? There are things I could do instead of running. But you know what? More than any of them, I feel like doing nothing. Right now, on this Sunday evening, belly full of roast chicken, I don’t want to do a thing.

In fact, that’s my plan. Despite the fitness and the stomach and the brain stuff, I plan to do nothing instead of running. Seems like a good plan, doesn’t it?

Going forwards

The good news is, fitness will return, weight can be lost (albeit slowly) and stress can be managed, without the need to suppress anything. However difficult not running is, it is only temporary. Running will once again become the norm.

But why stop for three weeks? Simple – I have a half marathon booked for February. A long way off, but I’ve got it all worked out. Slow start in November, then ramp up the miles through December and January.

I’ll build gradually. Three runs a week – one long, one (not) parkrun, and some intervals. A ten miler midway through January. A decent taper in early February. Half Marathon on the 14th. Easy.

Then, maybe, another break. A few more weeks off. Hopefully without any injuries. It seems like a great idea now. At the start of my planned not injury not running.

Yes, that’s the plan. Whether I’ll feel the same in a few weeks is another story entirely.

Header image by Heather Zabriskie on Unsplash