What’s Missing From This Picture?

No, not the one at the top. This one.


Need a clue?

OK…so why don’t we go with something of a vaguely humanoid shape that doesn’t have an ankle that looks like this


Did I say ankle? I clearly meant cankle. Apologies for the oversight.

Yep. Sadly, despite all by best efforts, my plans for running a third straight Cape Town marathon are officially tattered. So instead of laying out my kit and heading off to bed about now, I’m titting about on the internet, drinking a glass of red wine and generally moaning.

I’ve been very fortunate over the last few years to mostly get sick or injured prior to race season, so I guess I was due a bad day. It’s just frustrating for so many reasons – not least of which is that it was such an innocuous accident that caused my ankle to make some lovely popping sounds. I’d love to be able to say I was descending some technically difficult section of a Table Mountain trail as if being chased by the very Devil himself (his name is Lionel by the way) but sadly the truth is that I was playing in the park with the kids and I landed awkwardly when stepping backwards.

The fact that I managed to train around flu and a bunch of other niggles over the winter months only to be sidelined in the last fortnight is also highly frustrating. My last race out was a PB for 30km and added to the extra hills I’ve been doing this year I was chasing a marathon PB this weekend.

Of all the frustrations though perhaps my biggest is that the Cape Town marathon feels like my race. I’ve entered plenty of other great races that other runners have recommended to me but this has always felt like one that I’ve discovered for myself. The route comes within 300m of my house so there’s always lots of local support for my club colours, but it’s hard to put into words just how amazing it feels when your body is tired and you get to see your wife and kids on the side of the road cheering you on.

When I ran it in 2014 I had pleurisy and bronchitis over the winter and it became my focal point for getting back out on the road. I was underprepared and suffered hugely in the last 10km but when you get to see your son holding this up at the 21km mark…


…how can you not have a good day?

In 2015 I went one better. Pleurisy, bronchitis and sinusitis in the lead up. I ended up with nine weeks to train and taper…and somehow ran a PB of 3:52 (you can read about it here if you’d like a trip down memory lane). That race gave me a sense of belief that I carried through to the Two Oceans (56km Ultra) in March this year, earning my first finish – and hitting the marathon mark at 3:51 despite some interesting hills…

I guess this year it just wasn’t meant to be. In an odd way I’m looking forward to getting up early tomorrow and watching the leaders on TV before marvelling at their speed first hand as they run close to our home. There are plenty more races this season and hopefully my ankle will stand up to three half marathons in three consecutive weekends (the first of which is a scarily-short two weeks away).

More than anything the frustrations of the last two weeks have reminded me of just how important running is to me. It’s crept up on me over the years but particularly this year it’s become something that is integral to who I am and the way I want to live my life. I’m in one of the most beautiful cities on earth with extraordinary places to explore right on my doorstep. I’d be an idiot not to take advantage – and a much bigger idiot to whizz through it all on something stupid like a bike.

I hope one day I’ll get to trot along the marathon route with my kids bounding off into the distance chasing proper times. And if not, I’m pretty confident I’ll have at least passed on some love to them about what you can see in the city we now call home.

15 thoughts on “What’s Missing From This Picture?

  1. Of course I’m sorry for your disappointment – truly and deeply sorry. However, tomorrow you can have a special day with the family and you can just jolly well take a deep breath and teach them how to deal with disappointment by cheering others on. Then it’ll be Go Dad in just another couple of weeks. Keep your chin up, many more years running yet. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Spot on as always Diane – it’ll be fun to go and watch the runners with the kids. I was very down about it all earlier this week – I think a lot of it is to do with how much of a burden I place on T to look after the kids while I go and clock up the requisite training mileage so to then have to drop out feels like we’re all being cheated! Feeling a lot more philosophical today and the ankle is definitely improving 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words and the pep talk – yer a star x


    • Hehe 🙂 I love cyclists – especially when they are far from me! Nah, no issue with the two wheelers – it’s just become a running joke (pun intended) that they are always miserable when us plodders greet them so I like having a dig 😝

      Thanks Mel 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel for you Nick. Preparing for a marathon,as you know, takes deep mental effort as well as the physical training. Better luck next year. I would wear ankle supports for the next six months, even after your injury seems to have recovered. I speak with personal experience of knocks and strains on cross country and orienteering through and over rough terrain. When I look back at those times I wonder how I survived!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks James. Yes, the mental side of it is the biggest part to be honest – took me a couple of marathons to realise it was going to hurt at some point no matter how well I prepared so then it was a case of smile and get on with it! Will certainly be taking care with the ankle – generally it’s quite a strong and problem-free joint for me (one of the few!). Went for a long walk this morning which was pain free so light jogging to follow! Plenty of races in the calendar yet so if the ankle can stand it I may get a crack at another marathon in November.

      Oh, and however you managed to survive I’m very glad you did – I would have missed out on many fine comments and insights over the years if not!!


  3. Nik, I can absolutely relate to this experience. I am a personal trainer by trade and have had enough of my own injuries that I can understand this frustration. Once, I tore both hamstrings a couple weeks prior to a marathon that I had trained for and was determined to run. Well…I did run it, on two torn hamstrings, and it hurt from the very first step the to very last. Sometimes, one needs to accept loss, and it’s not easy, but in the long run, you will heal and be back at it. I haven’t been able to run for a long time due to migraine/vertigo issues, and it’s been a real hit. But, it’s also a lesson in what constitutes happiness and how to adapt when you lose what you love. I hope your ankle heals quickly and that before long you are posting about another race!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh wow – as if marathons weren’t hard enough. By someone who hasn’t tried training for one you’d be labelled as crazy for starting with an injury but it isn’t that simple. I have no doubt that if this race was my goal for the season I would have started today regardless – and probably stuffed myself up for weeks/months to come. You are of course absolutely right about taking time and staying patient.

      Thanks for commenting Em – great to hear your thoughts and I’m so sorry you haven’t been able to run. Migraine and vertigo – that’s a pretty awful combo and I really feel for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Nik,
    Really sorry to hear you had to miss out this time-probably a good decision though and there will be plenty more marathon opportunities in the future.
    The other thing missing from the picture is plasters, surely a bit of vaseline won’t be enough for that distance…?! Asking for trouble there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! An observation worthy of a running widow 🙂

      I would draw your attention to the small roll of surgical tape located just between the vaseline and the heart rate monitor. After extensive research I can confirm that it is the number one nipple-chafe prevention weapon currently in existence 🙂

      Was definitely the right call – had a lovely day with the kids watching the leaders run past and then went for a long walk in the forest which the ankle handled very well. Should be able to get back to some light jogging this week and we’ll see where it goes from there…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m sorry to hear your ankle has taken you out of the race. 😦 That must be so frustrating after all your training. If it helps, I’ll pretend I didn’t read that part about your stepping awkwardly backwards and instead assume you were valiantly wrestling a grizzly bear down a steep cliff side. 🙂

    That “Go Dad” sign is so sweet!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Have I mentioned how awesome you are? Grizzly bear wrestling assumptions are above and beyond the call of duty – you are a superstar!

      Yes, the sign was lovely – I very nearly burst into tears while running when I saw it!!

      In the end missing the race wasn’t so bad – had a fun time with the kids watching the leaders go past and then a long walk in the forest. Life ain’t so bad. Am going for a jog later so if you don’t hear from me for a while you know it went badly!

      Liked by 1 person

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