It all started well enough. A cold morning for sure, but there was the promise of clearing skies and a magnificent circuit of the southern Waitakeres on some of my favourite tracks. Ahead lay 4 -5 hours of quality training and fun. I had food, I had drink, my legs were feeling springy and I was full of the joys of the trail. What could possibly go wrong?
Nothing…. at least, not for the first hour during which I climbed to the high point of the Summit Track and was well on my way down it’s gnarly, root-encrusted descent. I was brimming with confidence and reflecting on just how much my technical skills were benefitting from lots of rough running recently, when CRACK…. my right ankle collapsed under me, turning inside out over itself and producing a stream of shouted expletives from me.
I’ve been running the trails of the Waitakere Ranges for nigh on 20 years and have clocked countless thousands of kms over these glorious hills. In all that time I’ve never turned an ankle so badly that I couldn’t carry on running within a few minutes. So yes, this hurt like hell, but surely I’d be okay and I’d soon be cantering off again? One step was enough to convince me otherwise. This one was serious. For the first time in all those years I pulled out my first aid kit, put on a compression bandage, taped over the top of it and popped a couple of Panadol . I started off again, hobbling and quietly cursing. But there was no sun penetrating the bush and within minutes, despite wearing 2 layers, I was starting to get cold. Stop again. Put on lightweight fleece and rain coat. Carry on downhill.
Then it was decision time… do I take the short route out but end up miles from my car? Or do I stagger along the dreaded Hamilton Track to take a longer route back to my car? For those that don’t know it, the Hamilton Track is a place to be avoided like the plague at this time of year, unless you have a peculiar liking for knee-deep, freezing cold bogs that is. I don’t, and my intended route was definitely going to give it a wide berth. But now it seemed I had no real choice. I was going to have to hobble/crawl/grovel my way along it to the relative safety of the dam access road beyond.
It wasn’t fun but I made it. Then I had the great fortune to run (ha, if only!) into two friends who were also out for a midweek bash. Phil kindly ran 3 kms to find a Watercare worker with a 4WD vehicle who could save me a further 4 kms of painful walking. Vicki kept me company while we waited.
So I made it out alive and am writing this with my right food elevated and smothered in ice bags. Hopefully it’s nothing more than a bad sprain. Hopefully I’ll only be off running for a week. But it could have so easily been worse and I’m grateful now for having gone so well prepared. Yes, I have run thousands of kms without ever using spare clothing or my first aid kit. I have carried that ‘unnecessary’ weight so many times and have often been tempted to leave it out. But I don’t. Today I was very, very grateful to have it with me. I was also very glad that I’d left a detailed route plan at home with Sally. Even if I’d had to lie down in the bush and await rescue I could have done so confident that people knew where to look for me.
Take note people, especially you solo runners.