Thursday 16 October 2014

The Importance of Infection Control

Mark was feeling glum. He had watched the last of the summer weather fade into autumnal gloom. He’d sat by, unable to maintain the progress that his competitors were making, with Adrian breaking his PB, and Tommy revealing his innovative training plan (more on both those subjects in separate posts). His brand new running shoes had sat in his hallway gathering dust, as for three weeks he had barely left his sofa. 

It was not for lack of willing – far from it. Instead, it was inability. A minor, but nevertheless disruptive operation had prevented him (on doctor’s orders) from doing any exercise. And for the period afterwards the thing he missed the most was not his colleagues, nor a Friday night beer; it was running. There were mixed opinions on the speed of Mark’s recovery. The doctors were pleased that everything was coming along as well as can be expected, however Mark’s belief was that his recovery was painfully slow. The thought that his #RoadtoSub20 counterparts were getting further and further away from him (and that he was powerless to prevent it), was difficult to take. 

In many sports it is often the performance of others that determines our own success (in football for example, a striker could be marked out of the game by a defender that is better than him or her). Stating the obvious, running is such an individual endeavour that one can only be accountable for one’s own performance. And any ground lost to opponents is challenging to make up. 

During his period of invalidity he’d dabbled with Parkrun volunteering, both marshalling and barcode scanning (resulting in him unknowingly scanning the barcode of a British record holder). This salved his conscience, but did little to satiate his desire for athletic improvement. But things were looking up: the healing process seemed to be nearing its conclusion. The volunteer roster at his local Parkrun for this Saturday was full, meaning that there was no space for him. Perhaps this is a sign that it is time for his return? 

This left him with the kind of dilemma that proper athletes all over the world experience: Is it better to come back early (but run the risk of setting an injury off again), or delay the return until it is absolutely clear that no damage will be done? Doctor’s instruction was that no exercise should be done for 4-6 weeks…but what do doctors know? 

It is striking that this is even a factor in Mark’s mind. A year ago, given the option to put his feet up for a month, he would have done just that (although in truth it would have been difficult to tell that he was doing anything different from his normal life). Indeed it is a testament to how infectious the running bug really is. And seemingly no amount of post surgery antibiotics could clear it up.


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