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I swam one length

1 May 2023

I’m not badly injured. Just the kind of injured where I can run, but I’m not sure I should. The kind of injured caused by “overuse” rather than anything specific.

A running injury caused by running: a classic of the genre.

(I did not swim in here)

The physio said my knees are “irritated”. The right one is particularly pissed off, making weird clicks when I bend it, and both knees feel a bit swollen the day after a run. Clicks are normal, apparently, but mine don’t feel normal.

I tried running less, stretching more. Leaving it a day between runs stopped the swelling, but I felt too nervous to run fast in case the knees got worse. I don’t want to put up with it, I want it to go away. So I’ve been resting for a week to see if that helps.

I am not good at resting.

After days of doing nothing, on Friday I cracked and cycled to the gym for some sweet sweet sweat. I rowed 2km, did 30 minutes on the elliptical, swam 20 lengths, and cycled home. Swam 20 lengths? So why does the title say one?

When the London marathon was beginning without me in it, last Sunday, I was walking in the rain listening to Lauren Fleshman’s excellent book, GOOD FOR A GIRL. Everyone who cares about women or girls, or running, should read this book. It’s so insightful about what it means to push our bodies and minds to the edge, and how risky that can be for women in a system built for men. Anyway, a throwaway line from the book stayed with me – when injured, Lauren just decided to teach herself front crawl.

I never had swimming lessons. One day my dad took my armbands off, held my belly up for a bit and then let go. It was like riding a bike, if riding a bike involves your parent constantly asking why you still swim like a banana. As a consequence, I can swim one stroke: breaststroke. Badly.

At the pool on Friday, I thought about Lauren Fleshman *deciding* to swim, and I thought about my daughter worrying every week about swimming lessons but going anyway, and I thought about the few times I’d tried to do front crawl and couldn’t get the breathing right, and I just decided to do it anyway. I kept swimming, I kept trying to breathe in every third stroke, I kept trying to breathe out less forcefully in between so that I wasn’t desperate for the breaths every third stroke. It didn’t work, I did run out of breath. But I did keep going.

I swam one length of front crawl and hated every second. Yesterday, I went for a run and loved every second. And my knees are still irritated.

I know the feeling.

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