I started running in the last two years of my schooling, mainly as a means to escape tuition classes, but when I came to college, I started increasing my running distances gradually. Marena became something of a temple to me, and the track my God. I ran my first 10k in the third semester, and my first 21k in the 4th. I had no trainer, no coach, no guide. I just ran longer because I wanted to test my limits and also, because running was sort of like meditation for me. And If I wasn’t running, I was doing bodyweight exercises. I didn’t know or didn’t care about form and conditioning; I just ran. I trained on the indoor track while prepping for the 10k, but for the 21k I knew I had to leave the comfortable, air-conditioned confines of the sports arena and head out on the road, to bring my training as close as possible to the actual conditions I’d face while running the marathon. I wouldn’t even carry a bottle of water on those long training runs, as I felt awkward carrying something with sloshing liquid inside. I ran on the strength of my feet and power of will. I achieved average personal best timings for both the 10k and 21k, and I was happy. I ran two more half marathons after that, and in the 5th semester, got into bicycling long distance. I started out with 30k and built up to a level where I once cycled 250-odd kilometers over three days, with about 60 kilometers of uphill climb. Even though I almost passed out of exhaustion, I believe, back then, that I was at the peak of my endurance.
But all these years of running, bicycling and working out without paying attention to technique, form or my increasingly protesting body took its toll. About 4 months ago, after completing a quotidian 12k run, while debarking from the bus i’d come back on, I landed awkwardly on my right foot and immediately felt a sharp, burning pain in my knee that i’d never felt before. The bus stop is about 2 kilometers from my hostel, and ignoring the pain, which I was in the habit of, I ran, or tried to run, all the way back. But I couldn’t run more than 500 meters and limped back the rest of the way. The pain wouldn’t subside the next day, or the day after. I took leave from running the rest of the week and tried again the next sunday. The pain came rushing back after 3-4 kilometers. I rested the next week as well, and ran again. The pain was still there, in full force. I finally went to an orthopedist to get it checked out. The first thing he commented on was how tight the muscles in my leg were. I couldn’t lift my leg up enough to make it perpendicular to my torso. It was something I knew and never bothered much about. When I got an MRI scan done of my knee, the report was shattering. It said I had a complex tear in one of the menisci of the knee, which basically act as a cushion between your thigh bone and the tibial bone below it, and I had partially torn my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which, along with several other ligaments, prevents the torsional twisting between the thigh bone and the tibia about the knee joint. The doc read the report and told me it needed surgery to repair the damage. I was also told to stop all my physical activities immediately and until long after the surgery was performed. I underwent an ACL reconstruction surgery recently and now I need to wait 3 months before I can get back to cycling and swimming, and 6 months before I can start running again.
I know a lot of you must have decided to get back on top of your fitness game at the start of this new year, and i’m here to tell you what to do and what not to do to avoid being in the sorry situation that I am in. Over the course of the next 7 days, I’m going to talk about common sports injuries concerning the lower half of your body, what factors lead up to them and what you can do to prevent that from happening. Stay fit, and more importantly, stay educated.