Chapter 8: The Marshmallow Test


I ran for 40 weeks uninterrupted during the 2010-2011 season, the longest streak between my first brush with injury in 2004 and eventually becoming consistent in 2016. This was partly due to discovering the benefits of barefoot running on playing fields in 2010. Very quickly, every physiological measure (heart rate, lactate threshold, body composition) and training statistic became the best I’d ever had. I competed twice for the University in 2011 (a success in itself). On the eve of a track meet in 2011, I found myself run down and dropped out of the 5,000m the following day. I carried a bug for a further two weeks. On my return, I completed a track session which involved running 800m repetitions in 2 minutes 20 seconds and 400m repetitions in 63-65 seconds. I was very fit but at the end of the session I couldn’t even warm down due to the pain in my left foot. I would be out for a further 11 weeks. It may appear as though I went from making great progress to a disaster very abruptly, but to be honest, I had it coming. I was a full-time PhD student doing long hours in the laboratory every day, a weekend student studying for a BSc in Physical Therapy, the university endurance coach and I was involved in a host of other projects. As I limped off the track that day, part of me was relieved. I was mentally exhausted. My inability to delay gratification, work on a small number of projects and treat my running with the respect it deserved, meant I just didn’t have the headspace to run at that level. After 40 weeks, I became very fit, sick and then injured.

In many respects, it is very easy to be an injury-prone runner. I never had to concentrate on my training for too long before the next rest period came along. Consistency requires a discipline that injured runners rarely experience…

Come back Monday May 17th for an extract from Chapter 9: Denial. Pre-order the kindle version of the book now on amazon, out June 28th 2021.