The Achilles Tendon: Lives Fast, Dies Young

They would shuffle out the Cork road whilst scuffing paint off the hard shoulder; almost as if instructed by the council to clean it off for a new coat. Gosh I thought, it must be hard to run when you’re old with legs like wooden poles.

The decline is slow, usually beginning in your 30’s but certainly in your 40’s, that is at least for most human physiology. Not quite so in the runner. In the twilight of their 20’s and at the dawn of their 30’s, the runners mind and body full of youthful exuberance – their best is yet to come. They carry a little secret, often hidden from view and that is – that the Achilles Tendon is not so new.

Morning comes but the runner doesn’t leap from bed, rather places both feet flat to the floor. From here the runner can leverage some more using hip and knee with some core. The fluidity of the walk is dependent on how much pain the runner can endure. A ginger walk with foot flat and all is well, a fast start like ripping the tendon from the bone. Next comes the morning run. The further the decline, the closer the proximation between the duration of warm-up and the running itself. Carefully encouraging an ankle joint from foot flat to fluid motion. ‘Steps’, he cries, ‘where are the steps?!’. ‘Ah yes, there they are’, up and down like an old water-pump, until at last the blood begins to flow south. Then there’s the first mile. ‘Will I start the watch?’, ‘Not yet, the first mile will be an embarrassment’. The arms swing wildly as if in hope of pull-starting the legs like an old lawnmower, but there’s not much give, not yet. The first passer-by tries to make out, is it a race-walker, perhaps a beginner – he is too young to be a paint stripper.

By the time the muscles from the knees up have grown fatigued with boredom, finally the Achilles begins peace talks with the calf. They’ll have a power-sharing agreement that requires a little more flexibility from the Achilles. Mile 2, you’re running. Before long, you feel like your 21 again. By the time the park run starts, you’ve only got to cope with the betrayal that comes from living a double-life. The look of horror on his face, as you pass him by at 5:20 minute-mile, he’s sure it’s you he saw just now – scraping paint with the sole of your shoe. ENDS.

The Inspiration for this week

Science lets me speak only of what is necessary for progress. It has no time for vivid description. This week, having being inspired by those with liberty to make better use of the English language, I decided to make a stab at a more humorous but very real description of the runners world. The science, behavioral and advice stuff will be back next week. But this week, let us rejoice in a struggle that comes to most of us. This week is dedicated to the two Irish writers who have inspired me; sports writer Cathal Dennehy and NUIG’s finest Eoin Molloy – click their names, read their stuff and you’ll see why – until next week.