Running Fast or Not at All

Chris Parry, tells his story of running from an early age and finding Cheltenham Running Club.

I ‘found’ running as a 7 year old, whilst competing at a local event which soon became the highlight of my school year. I looked forward to training with my sister at Penair, the local secondary Chris Parry (1)school, which at the time had a very successful cross-country club.

Two more years was too much to wait, so as a 9 year old I began training with them. This is where I picked up my first injury, Server’s disease, a condition where overly tight calf muscles pull on soft/juvenile heel bones, causing pain when pushing off each foot, not great for running.

This was down to training too hard, too young; I was told I couldn’t do anything about it except wait until I was 16 when I’d grow out of it. In the meantime I was given very arch supportive orthotics for my shoes.

Two years later, I began training again, but this time I had a team. We trained hard after school three times a week and competed throughout the country on weekends, which  was slightly inconvenient as we were from Cornwall.

Training with a strong team I managed to place second in the county, third in the South West and represent Cornwall at the UK Championships. Unfortunately, due to other commitments the team dwindled as we got older. Soon I was running again without a team and so I decided to stop.

Vanity Training

Before college, I thought I’d try to bulk up, as at that age, it seemed the Ethiopian runner’s physique I’d perfected didn’t seem to appeal to the opposite sex. I found an online workout regime which consisted of chest and ab exercised but little else. Idiotically, I didn’t stretch, whatsoever.

I kept to this religiously and after 6 months I had put on a fair amount of muscle. Unfortunately, or not, I broke my wrist, causing all training to cease. This is where I began noticing neck issues, most probably due to a tight chest. I saw a physio with little effect, so just hoped it would resolve itself in time.

Racing without Training

A year later, my sister and I did Tough Mudder (13 mile assault course), with no training. The next day we saw the Chester marathon and decided to train for it. After a single training session with Cheltenham’s Almost Athletes my lower back started hurting, which alongside my neck pain, have not stopped to this day.

Getting Help

I then began seeing my current Chiropractor, which for 6 weeks I was visiting twice a week in parallel with a weekly sports massage. This meant my ‘broken back’ was breaking my financial back.

In April 2015, I went to London to watch the Marathon, which inspired me to start training again. After a fortnight of road running I impetuously ran the Cheltenham Park Run, absolutely killing myself and lower back to place 5th. This meant I was unable to do any sport for another 3 months.

At this point I went to see one of the UK’s best Spinal Surgeons, who concluded “ there is nothing wrong with your back, you shouldn’t have pain”, which alongside the NHS’s conclusion “ I’m sorry, this is just you for the rest of your life”, was devastating to hear.

Finding Cheltenham Running ClubChris Parry (2)

Through a colleague, I found Conor and booked in for some PT sessions. Conor mentioned his running club and said I should join, as it’s for all abilities and specialises in “running safely”, something I’d not heard before.

From training with many clubs, it is clearly apparent to me that Conor knows what he is doing, especially as he combines cardio training with all body strength training, something that is crucial if you want to stay injury free.

I’m currently seeing, club physiotherapist, Katie Foster, who I must say is the most knowledgeably impressive physio I have ever been treated by. I am feeling far more positive towards the likelihood of recovering than I have before.

Finally, after receiving specialist running coaching I’ve got rid of my overly controlling orthotics and kicked away my high heeled trainers. I’m now on the path towards a barefoot styled running, something which studies have shown, if done correctly, hugely reduces the number of injuries an athlete picks up.

To be continued…

As you can imagine, Chris’ potential to run fast is vastly greater than most of ours but like everyone, he has to play a constant balancing act between running faster and preparing his body to handle the forces associated with doing so.

Moving to a forefoot running gait could potentially lead to more speed and less impact on his spine, but could also lead to new problems if he gets the balance wrong.

We look forward to bringing you updates on Chris’ progress towards running success or doom…

About the Author

Conor is the Head Coach and Founder of Cheltenham Running Club. His experience as a Strength & Conditioning Coach, Triathlete and Personal Trainer ensure members are educated on best practice in regards to training progression while also nurtured through the early stages of fitness development.

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