The Road Back to Recovery
David Wyeth – 10th October 2017
The London Marathon “experience” feels like a distant dream, which you could say is a good thing seeing that I’m facing up to my nemesis this weekend. I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse to race Amsterdam Marathon on 15th October 2017.
Those fortunate enough to have missed a glimpse of the London “experience” need only Google “David Wyeth” (although it is safe to do so from your work computer, prepare yourself for an excess of thigh). Being something of a Luddite when it comes to all things social media, and neglecting to foster one’s own digital footprint, my prior indulgence in a low-key existence was somewhat shattered on 23rd April.
The dust has now settled, but I am grateful for the abundance of goodwill and support I received from fellow club members and beyond, not to mention the generosity towards my fundraising campaign (£11,000 raised from just over £1,000 on the morning of the race). It was truly humbling.
I’m writing here because I wanted to share my sincere thanks, and should you wish to read further I thought I’d provide an insight to my process of recovery, to enable me to ‘go again’.
I refer to it being a process of recovery because my real-time experience of events was akin to a horror show: a personal goal for which I had invested much effort unravelled dramatically before me. A truly heart-warming incident followed, referred to by one online commentator as ‘the kindness of strangers’, was caught on the live broadcast and went viral. For the privilege of being caught up in the story I have no regrets. Never the less there was a lingering toll on my body due to the extremes to which I had pushed myself. Having thrashed my body and limbs to their limit for 26 miles, rather than the usual warm down, I was horizontal for well over an hour being plied with oxygen, water, jelly bellies, and whatever else to get some fuel on-board. Lying there, I couldn’t lift a finger but throughout the ordeal was entirely lucid. Once stabilised, my quads physically would not contract to enable me to stand-up. It was as if the connecting tendons had simply been cut away – it was quite alarming.
It took a good week or so to get back to some light running. By which point I’d received an invitation to participate in the Great Manchester Run. The race was less than 4 weeks away. After our whirlwind experience the month before in London, it was really good to reunite with Matthew Rees. However most poignant of all was that the event took place only days following the arena bombing. Up until then, I had managed to remain pragmatic with the line of media questioning. I could simply deal in fact (after all the questions were about something that happened directly to me). It was overwhelming to face questions about a terrorist event and the response of the people of Manchester, and an expectation to represent that in words. The comeback race performance was mediocre at best, but it was a privilege to be a part of it and indeed rub shoulders with running royalty.
Other races followed. I worked diligently to recover form, but it became clear that I needed to be patient. Meanwhile I took advice to get a full health screening through my GP. The idea being to check there wasn’t an underlying heart issue (or otherwise) masked by the diagnosis of the race medical director of extreme energy depletion. My GP was fantastic (god bless the NHS) and gamely went along with the idea.
An array of tests followed: full suite of blood screening, blood pressure, ECG and a Heart Echo. Concerns regarding a low heart rate (it was recorded as low as 27bpm) and for my level of fitness a disproportionately high blood pressure resulted in 24-hour ECG analysis, and a separate 24-hour monitor of blood pressure.
It was reassuring to get this level of screening and ultimately it was concluded that there were no concerns to prevent me continuing with the level of training and competition I was intent upon. By which point I’d received an invitation from the organisers of the TCS Amsterdam Marathon.
There wasn’t a lot wrong with my approach to the London Marathon. I’m still training in the similar ways. A key difference is that due to the fact I had a strong endurance base I’ve been able to explore a much shorter, yet higher volume/intensity, block of training. Unlike London preparations (average 75 miles over 20 weeks), Amsterdam prep has involved 6 weeks of high intensity – 100 miles/week involving some tough sessions – before tapering.
During this build-up, I factored in a half marathon race to test my progress. On 10th September I ran the Great North Run in 1 hour 14 minutes placing 62nd overall. This was hugely encouraging. As well as a decent personal best, it met a standard set by London Marathon for their Championship entry, as well as being an all-time club record for Chorlton (which I’m very honoured to hold, even if only for a brief time!). Most importantly, it felt like I was finally back on track. It definitely takes a bit of pressure off in Amsterdam – simply that the latest block of training has, in part, been cashed in already.
The week prior to Great North Run, it was an immense privilege to be selected and run for Chorlton men’s 6-stage team as part of the Northern Road Relays. This was my first true team event for the club and such a thrill to be part of the line-up to qualify for the prestigious National Relays (that took place 7th October), the first time in the club’s history this has been achieved. It embodies the spirit of our club when team mates lay down the performances I saw that day, and by qualifying, Chorlton displaced a number of clubs with a noteworthy legacy in the sport. It is thrilling that this was achieved with a group of lads who have only ever known club running at Chorlton. Credit to Colin, Ben and the field of dreams (Turn Moss) for their unwavering support and dedication to the cause.
It is three years since I took up running from a much laboured, wheezy beginning. I stuck at it and it has proved immensely rewarding. I’m delighted to have found such a welcoming community of runners and I’m hugely proud to pull on the black and gold vest.
I am certain it has helped me to develop in other ways I never expected, in particular, my mental fitness, which has unquestionably benefited my approach to work and dealing with stress (I am a Project Manager at ADP). I regularly encounter others who have claimed the same, particularly those who have been affected by depression and anxiety.
Matthew Rees, the kind stranger back on 23rd April, will be joining me in Amsterdam (we’ve raced together a few times since London). He very openly and admirably discusses his challenges with anxiety in the quest to support others. It is fantastic that he has initiated a fundraising campaign in conjunction with racing a marathon this autumn for a cause very personal to him and I want to promote this – the very least I can do considering it was his intervention that sent my fundraising through the roof. If you are interested, you can read Matt’s story in the link below. Please donate or share where able: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/thewelshrunner1
It is a busy weekend of racing coming up. I’m disappointed to miss out on the first XC league fixture and the Manchester Half, but will be eagerly looking out for how everyone gets on (once I’m done with the pancakes).
David Wyeth, Chorlton Runners
10th October 2017