An open letter to my surgeon

Dear Mr. Coates,

I don’t suspect after all these years that you’d remember me; I can’t imagine my knee was all that exciting or particularly challenging to work on.

It was challenging me though!

Three years ago today I sat in the Day Surgery waiting area at The Royal Surrey, nervously chatting to my father. Growing up I had this funny resentment that I had never broken anything; I’d never fallen out of a tree and had a cast on my arm for all my friends to sign, for example. But now, here I was about to undergo surgery and I was wondering how I could have ever desired to find myself in situation.

Let’s hope my surgeon can follow directions!

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So far as I remember it, the cross country course at Denbies is a bit of a brute. The sound of spikes hitting flint in the footpath at the start was exhilarating though the ground underfoot soon turned to mud as competitors pushed to get the best position on the undulating course.  At the corner where the vineyard runs close to the North Downs Way we had risen to the highest point on the course and a claggy, sloppy descent stretched out ahead of me.  Confidently I set off down the slope and made headway on my competitors.

Then, nothing but pain.

As I describe it to people, it was simply that my foot suddenly found traction at the bottom of the mud and my knee simply kept moving.  As you quickly surmmised at our first meeting it was clearly that point at which I caused the meniscus tear in my left knee.

I can’t lie; I kept running, a bit (20 miles the following week, a fifty miler in May, and a weekend in the Alps in June.)  It was at the latter that the problems truly started though; the rest of my body was fed up of compensating for the injury and I was left hobbling around the beautiful Chamonix region whilst my friends explored by running.  The injuries sustained here put paid to my goal of running a 100 mile non-stop race in 2013.  From here I tried my best to run on and off, but I was at my lowest ebb when I was finally referred to you in the spring of 2014.

And that is how, on September 17th 2014, I found myself waking up post-operation eager that I was ‘fixed’ at last.

Recovery

It was slow – super slow – to start with, as I know it should have been, which took all my willpower to get through. But soon I was starting to run more and more.  Almost a month to the day after my operation I was the tail-walker at Cranleigh parkrun #3; I completed it in 40:00.

Prior to my injury I had run the London Marathon in 5:41 (yes, ouch, I know!) and then in 2012 I ran Milton Keynes in 4:21.

Between October 2015 and September 2016 I went on to enjoy some of my best races ever.  I traveled abroad to complete the Frankfurt Marathon (a race I had entered two years previously and deferred twice) in 3:30. Then I returned to London to set a new PB of 3:25 – arguably the greatest day of my running life – and then ran 21 laps of the Gravesend Cyclopark (clockwise in May and anticlockwise in September) to complete my fifth and sixth marathons.  In the final one I crossed the finish line with my little girl, who was just 10 months old when I was laid out in your operating theatre.

Nearly at the finish!

Prior to the operation, my best ever parkrun time was 20:58.  A few weeks ago I raced on the track in my first league race for my club in 19:18, confident that with a few more competitors around me (and a little less head wind) I could actually break the 19 minute mark.  This is unfathomable to me, and although I know I put a lot of the work in; I couldn’t have done it without your intervention in the first place. So thank you Mr. Coates. Thank you so much!

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