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The trials and tribulations of the ‘comeback’

by Britta Sendlhofer
Friday 23rd January 2015
Tags  Comeback   |   Injurt   |   Jantastic

This is not my first attempt at a comeback and the return to fitness is a challenging journey

Winter running

Once the initial frustration of an injury lay-off wears off, a popular coping mechanism is to dream of the comeback!

We promise to do all the rehab, to gently build up the mileage, to do the cross training, to follow the training plan by the letter and vow to lose the excess weight that has quickly accumulated! We’re bouncing with renewed motivation and eagerly pick the next target race. In our enthusiasm we feel invincible!

It’s easy however to fail during any of the above stages. The rehab might quickly prove tedious or the injury refuse to respond. Our idea of sensible mileage may not match with what the physio had actually prescribed! Don’t even get me started on the excess weight that is as stubborn as a long distance runner within sniffing-distance of the finish line!

Whatever the reason, frequently we either do not make that target race or else we do not perform to our own (unrealistic) expectations. Worst of all, the old injury may have flared up again. So it’s back to the drawing board!

Rinse and repeat!

A few failed comebacks later and we’re no longer so full of enthusiasm or dreaming of outperforming our former self! As we see numerous entry fees go to waste and the confidence in our body diminishes, doubt creeps in as to whether we will ever ‘be a runner’ again.

It’s time for a whole new coping mechanism to set in.

In my case there suddenly came a strange calm! Suddenly the obsessiveness eased. I looked back at my past achievements and felt proud and thought: ‘Maybe that will do’!

Many have to stay away from running altogether once they can no longer compete. I found that through supporting others by helping with training or organising or standing on the side-lines cheering, I could remain involved in the sport and in touch with my running friends.

There were many more aborted attempts to ‘get back into it’. However, life was suddenly busy and it was harder to find room for those training runs. Any niggle from the old injury got me thinking ‘Well what’s the point in trying?’

Early in 2013 I signed up for Jantastic (jantastic.me/). I set the realistic goal of just three runs per week in January, slowly built up the distance of the ‘long runs’ during February and then upped the speed in March. By April things fizzled to a halt again.

I couldn’t put my finger on the reason. A lack of confidence, the inevitable lack of pace as well as aches and pains from a body trying to adjust, all played a part. To be honest, it didn’t feel worth the effort! Others were way more excited at the prospect of my comeback than I was myself! I tried to remain ‘under the radar’, keeping my occasional runs to myself.

Be patient, set realistic goals, listen to your body, have friends to run with,… I know the theory, but there’s little advice on the finer details of how to adjust to new limitations (time doesn’t stand still, that extra weight is a drag and the injury sets some boundaries)!  

Winter running

In the end, strangely, it were those dark and cold winter morning runs that renewed my love for running.

Determined not to wait for the New Year, and much to the delight of the dog, one December morning I once again put on the trainers and went for a little run.

Nothings sets you up for the day better than a bit of exercise and few things make me more content than trotting through the countryside for a few miles – and ‘just like that’ I managed to build a habit.

The New Year hang over was cured with a fell run with a good friend, who’s similarly on the comeback trail. The conditions were appalling, the legs were heavy and it certainly didn’t feel easy. That’s when I knew – I’m back! It would have been easy to find an excuse and dodge the run, yet I had made it and I loved it.

It’s not about set mileage or target pace at the moment, no watch or heartrate monitor, just a lung full of fresh air and rosy cheeks.

I now lay out the running kit before I go to bed and set the alarm so that even a few ‘snooze buttons’ later I still have time for a run.

I look forward to my run days. I’ve signed up to Jantastic (jantastic.me/) yet again – four runs per week this time.  Unlike last year, it’s coming easy. Instead of struggling to get the runs done I often feel disappointed that I’ve already done the week’s pensum. Yet, I do not feel the weight of ambition of yesteryears, or the obsession to go longer and faster and I intend to keep it that way!

The comeback is a roller-coaster ride with many highs and lows, but I have developed ways of coping with the downs. New kit or a lazy afternoon with a book are great rewards, discovering new routes or changing the pace are great ways to keep it interesting, but most of all it’s that warm satisfied glow after a run, that is so hard to explain to the non-runner, that keeps me coming back.

Let’s hope this year I make it beyond April!


About The Author

Britta Sendlhofer

Britta, originally from Austria, came to live in the Lake District in 1990.

Always in love with the mountains, the local hills and fells have since been her favourite ‘playground’. She spends much of her spare time exploring the hills – no matter what the season or the weather – always accompanied by her two Border Collies.

While the fells and trails are her first love, Britta has also completed 10 road marathons, before moving up to ultra events. Her biggest achievements are a Bob Graham Round, the Himalayan 100 mile stage race,the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc race and the Lakeland 100.


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