My running hopes have been saved. So today I want to heap praise and gratitude on the Cinderella of the running world - the humble sock.
So often the sock is the subject of fun and mockery for being smelly, worn out or embarrassingly visible. I too have heaped derision on the sock. Yet socks are indeed the foundation of good running for many of us.
I have history with socks; they remind me of my Dad whose socks were a regular topic in our house. Every year, Santa left our Christmas pressies in one of Dad's (washed, Headingly Rugby Club) socks. As a little girl I had a kiddy-type speech impediment and pronounced socks as 'thocks' (said in a juicy fruity spray-y way). I was very insistent about my pronunciation and my Dad never let me forget it and teased me mercilessly. Even today if you say 'thocks' to Mum she remembers the joke, she beams with happy memories and memories are a rare gift indeed for her.
Later on in life, the sock theme reappeared. My gone but never forgotten monster cat Kyle had a big thing about socks. In his younger years he used to steal socks from nearby washing lines and bring them home for me proud as Punch. Kyle stopped his stealing when we moved to North Berwick (it's not that kind of place) - but he remained partial to Ali's socks if he could get his paws on them. Just a week before he shuffled off to the great litter tray in the sky, Kyle had placed one of Ali's socks in the middle of the kitchen for me - a token of his love.
Socks loomed large when I was cycling and again when I got into running, and as I really got into running, things began to change.
My first running socks were my cycling socks. Then as I ran a bit more, I started to worry about blisters, so I got 1000 mile socks (they are good!) and those brilliant twin skin Hilly socks.
My first summer of running, I had to think about what length of socks to wear - all that running on the beach meant sand got into my shoes when I wore short sockettes giving me awful blisters which took ages to heal. So I got long socks to keep the sand out; I got over wearing knee length socks for the first time since second year at school. My sock collection was beginning to get serious and my horizons widened further.
Next came the injury, and yes there were more sock-related consequences. After doing my calf in I got seriously into compression socks as the sock of choice, I really liked the way they made my legs feel all wrapped up safely.
That was followed by a too brief but very enjoyable sock free period when I got into barefoot running. I am by nature a non- sock wearer, I love to feel the earth under my feet, but dear reader, as Borgen's husband says: 'sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do' and the socks had to come back.
My deformed feet mean I have to work extra hard to run and they don't absorb impact properly, so I can't run barefoot (at least whilst training for my marathon). To work round my limitations, I have to minimise the physical impact of running on my body. It's basically the same stuff you do to avoid shin splints - wear cushioned shoes; run on soft surfaces, take rest days.
All has been hunky dory with the new regime, but I had a few niggles now and then. I analysed my training diary for an answer. When it was cold I had fewer niggles. Hmm, usually it goes the other way. It wasn't speed, it wasn't route, it wasn't shoes. Then I twigged. When it got cold I wore my lovely thick padded winter socks and of course they absorb more impact than thin or even compression socks. I tried it out and the difference was indeed remarkable. The best socks I've found so far are Falke, but I'd be very interested to get some ideas from other runners.
Whilst I love the freedom of the barefoot, I also love my big cuddly padded socks, and so do my toes. It's much less of a sacrifice as the ice and snow set in up here! Wearing padded socks is like wearing one of those lovely comfy duvet coats round my feet and they snuggle in comfortably for a long run. On a very long run I might get a bit of a twinge, but every time I go out, it comes on later, hurts less and goes away faster. The positive effect of padded socks is cumulative.
This week I've had some good sessions, just made the most of any opportunity to get some miles and fitness into the pot before it snows. I've done 25 miles running - my long run a 12 miles on the beach. I found a way of mixing trail and beach to get a bit further. I've also done a couple of spinning classes, lots of stretch and a body pump to get those muscles firing. Also started trying out gels and thinking about fuelling and recovery.
Some niggles in my right knee, but Pam at Physio Plus has given me exercises and stretches. I had a soothing bath and used Napier's massage relaxing oil after my long run today and that's worked wonders, so no new bathroom until after the marathon!
Wherever you are, have a good week. The snow is making an appearance here, so I'm off to find my yak tracks!