Blog 4: PHT Part 3 - "How Hard Are You Working" by Dineke Austin

I ended my last blog with my ‘eureka’ moment of realising that even when ‘banned’ from real, al fresco, naturalist (not naturist, as in Piers’ mankini!) running, I could still set myself training challenges in a gym! (Yes, really: one aspect of my voyage of injury/rehab discovery is learning that if one (me) is driven to self-competitiveness, this translates into a geeky target-driven attitude to ANYTHING; however, bizarre!)

At the start of this 2-week block of VLM training, I was down for rehab exercises every day, with as much cross-trainer-ing as I could “endure”.  This then became alternate days of exercises, with treadmill walking. Fortunately, before I had signed up with Virtual Running for 50 miles walking on a treadmill in February, a well-timed physio visit advised me that I could now RUN on a treadmill, and that if I had “another two good weeks” I would be likely to be starting ‘real’ running. Quick change of plans: February target 25 miles running on a treadmill.


No: not 5.25k in 2:41!

(Photos only remotely possible during cool-down!)

Firmly putting aside disappointment – nay anguish – at giving up Marrakech at the end of January, I approached this new challenge as if it was the high spot of my brief running career. Tendon repair diet and exercises continued, my response (when I had breath and energy) to my PT’s words “How hard are you working?” was usually (aloud) “8/9” (even when internally unprintable); and I adjusted to walking, then jogging, then running on a treadmill.

In my previous gym, I hated treadmill running with a vengeance – leaving aside boredom, unforgiving and monotonous surface – I was always terrified that I’d be flung off the machine, like offal in the student meat factory job (and with my sense of (im)balance, I probably would, at that)! Has anyone else recorded PBs on a treadmill? Yes, really! And recorded on their training plan the difference between ‘long run’, ‘tempo’, and ‘interval’ speeds (‘hills’ not allowed) on a treadmill! How sad/driven/obsessed (delete as appropriate) is that!

Entries from my training diary read:

07/02: 5k in 36’32”

12/02: 5k in 33’10” (PB)

19/02: 5k in 30’07” (new PB)

23/02: tempo 3k in 16’26” @5.35 etc!!!!

Did all go according to plan? It started well: the point when I could touch my toes when exercising was one breakthrough moment hamstring-wise.

However: it had never dawned on my novice mind that to run on a treadmill I needed to wear proper running shoes, with the insole support recommended by ‘Up and Running’…I walked, then ran, in my soft Sketchers. Now don’t get me wrong: this is not a criticism of any brand of footwear: it is of me and my crass stupidity!

QED: another mistake in my steep learning curve. Result: sharp and increasing pain in right foot: fine when not walking, but ever-increasingly painful when doing so. 


Surely NOT a hairline stress fracture from repetitive treadmill walking/running in the wrong footwear?

Suddenly, the physio shifted attention from hamstring to foot: with a real chance that I had inflicted another avoidable injury: this time to my right navicular. (How many running body parts could I damage in one 16-week VLM training period? Was this the hand of you-know-who punishing me for gelatin supplements?) One navicular jump test later: foot exercises; a stern word regarding appropriate footwear for treadmills; an x-ray referral letter for my GP. A day later: GP visit, & immediate referral to drop-in X-ray at Ealing Hospital.


The culprit!

Now the wait….

VLM at stake…

Meanwhile: volunteering, coaching, “how hard are you working?”, foot exercises….A long-overdue visit to ‘Up and Running’ for new footwear.

And a new Garmin for when I would be able to run…

High spots:

Riddlesdown Trail Guest Parkrun, where I should have walked…but Mike Limpert bullied me into jogging in 36’14”! (He says it was the other way around.) Al fresco, glorious views of the Downs!

Osterley the week after, surreptitiously jogging in 29’54”.

Low spots:

Missing Marrakech

The EE marathon presentations (excellent, but reminding me of how far I still need to go)



Blog 3: PHT Part 2 - 'Virtual Running'! by Dineke Austin

  THE Running Biddy Hamstring

THE Running Biddy Hamstring

Last time, I wrote of my so-called ‘training’ plans in terms of short, medium and long-term. Once the bruising at the back of my leg had subsided (see above 2 weeks after ‘Beginner’s slip’) and I had tried the updated version of RICE – HICE (heat pack); it was time to move on to medium-term goals and try the effects of dietary supplements. One of the URLs provided last time round gave a link to ‘Tendinopathy, diet and gelatin supplementation’ by Fran Taylor, with so much info’ on dietary treatment of tendons that my head hurt (I’d rather run, any day!).

In a nutshell, despite Scott Jurek’s excellent book on endurance running and veganism, I still need to learn to manage a balanced runner’s diet at the best of times, and this wasn’t (‘…the best of times, the worst of times…’). However, what seemed to make most sense for a veggian (veggie vegan), given diet and what helps tendon repair, was to break my self-imposed rules and take gelatin and collagen – neither of which are plant-based! (No time to contact Scott.)  So I did, and still am… I’m waiting for the hand of you-know-who to strike me…but then I’d already had my 3 accident strikes, hadn’t I? (Is it like licence endorsements?)

Actually, Scott does include a delicious non-pharmaceutical treatment/recipe for ‘Strawburst Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie’ (p173 for rationale, p174 for ingredients/method), where the addition of miso (for salt/electrolytes as well as taste) and turmeric, ginger, pineapple and oil (against inflammation) offset the sweetness of the strawberries and mango.  (Q: Why is it that I equate anything yummy with sinful indulgence? Adam & Eve; CoE primary school; Dutch Calvinism meets Quaker background?! Sorry: I digress.)

Medium/long term – along with the ever-glorious volunteering, especially EE Coaching and my new discovery of Junior Parkrun (thanks to Lisa Dumais and Kate for the kids – nothing quite like primary kids for taking your mind off woes!) – was the dreaded REHAB EXERCISES!

Hamstring heel bridge: one heel at a time; supine bridge, resting on elbows; side lying hip abduction and hold; prone single leg hamstring curl; reverse lunge… they read (and most certainly feel) like medieval torture methods! AND ‘as much work on the cross-trainer as you can stand’. DAILY.

This has seriously raised questions about which takes more time commitment: VLM running, or rehab exercises: each gym session has taken at least 1:30 for exercises alone, increasing as either or both physio and PT have added to the list (‘victim of your success’). For me at least, it has proved far more serious a challenge than long running: it has taken more self-control and commitment than I thought I had.

High spot: marshalling at the glorious Osterley National Trust Nightrun!

Low spot (wot, only one!): finding a challenge to meet my ‘12in12’ targets: I had rashly (or so it now felt) signed both Trev and myself up for a 12in12 challenge just after the Amsterdam Marathon last October; my monthly challenge is: a) to run one new guest Parkrun (thanks Ealing Eagles tourist group!); b) to run or walk one serious distance target (in the open air wasn’t specified, but I never dreamed otherwise!).

As you know, I wriggled my way round January with the Action Challenge 20k Winter Walk (NOT quite the same as Marrakech!); but Googling brought no further walks, other than Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, etc: not QUITE meeting the stern injunction – after the tiniest of inclines in central London on the 20k walk – “FLAT!”

‘Stuffed’ comes to mind.

Then: ‘Women’s Running’ advert: Virtual Running? Quick Google. Got it: see below.


No: not me this time, but the germ of a 12in12 idea!

Now I certainly didn’t flatter myself that this is what I would look like (I wish); but checking on details with the organiser, and the 12in12 team, confirmed that I could set myself a treadmill walking challenge for February; and as long as I had evidence (e.g. photos of treadmill readings, and a log) I could actually gain a medal (what a difference!)…

Thus the start of February VLM ‘training’ saw me:

i) Trying to excite myself at the prospect of serious PHT rehab/core strength exercises on alternate days (with my PT’s words “How hard are you working?” ringing in my ears); AND

ii) Virtual walking: target to walk 50 miles on a treadmill by the end of February!

Will I give up?

Still NOPE!

Will I learn further lessons the hard way?

Dear Reader, wait for Blog 4…..


Dineke Austin - Blog 2: Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy (PHT) - 'These boots are made for walking...'

Dineke Pic 1.jpg

When you can’t run: WALK!

 Not only is there confusion in the blogs between the identity of certain male Eagles; you read this correctly: PHT not PMT (though the effects on mood are remarkably similar: ask Trev!)

PHT: What is this beast of a condition that so many runners suffer from, as the recent formation of a dedicated Eagles Facebook group testifies?

The hamstring comprises 3 muscles which all attach to the ischial tuberosity – the bone in your bottom. The hamstring tendon is vulnerable to compression against the ischial tuberosity when the hip is flexed, and also has to deal with high loads during running. This combination of compressive and tensile load can make it vulnerable to developing tendinopathy.

Broadly speaking tendinopathy can be split into 3 main stages: reactive, disrepair, and degeneration. A reactive tendinopathy typically involves the tendon responding to a sudden increase in load: in my case a slight slip on marathon #4 and overstretching for 2 strides (repeated twice more: on a training run, and with the Beginners’ group). Pain is usually part of this response (!) and the tendon becomes very sensitive to load (either through compression or tension on the tendon).

Dineke Pic 2.jpg

Disrepair can follow, if appropriate treatment is not as speedy as desirable (over Xmas/New Year holiday period!). If you imagine a pair of interlocked hands, fingers tightly woven together: this is how the hamstring fibres should look. In a case of disrepair, the fingers have gaps between them, between which fluid can accumulate, and sciatic nerve poke through. Degeneration: speaks for itself: when the damage is irreversible, and the best that can be done is to build more good tendon around the permanently damaged section. I don’t intend to visit that if it can be avoided!

If interested, see other URLs:

So where does this leave my VLM plans?

Unlike Gary, I am most definitely NOT marathon fit; and I am in turns wistful and admiring of Becky’s ability and tenacity in the face of her runner’s ‘niggles’ to run in this weather – and being welcomed back by that mouth-watering meal!

‘Training’ plans:

Immediate: TREATMENT

Short/medium-term: DIETARY- supplements

Medium/long term: REHAB! (This was before accident 3!)


Illustration 2: the contrast between my carefully-guided training plan, and the reality:



Will I give up?

You bet not! If there is ANYTHING I can do to be ready, run VLM, and do justice to the Club’s faith in me to represent Ealing Eagles with pride and courage, I will.

This is a steep learning curve: not before time! Patience (towards myself) being one of them; the importance of building core strength, and leg muscle strength possibly being key.

Meanwhile: I am helped to feel part of Ealing Eagles and the local running community by supporting the coaching team at Elthorne every Monday evening (floodlit!), and volunteering at both Gunnersbury and Acton Junior Parkruns. Not least, helped by the many Facebook messages and chance encounters that have been so supportive, welcome, and warming.

I also have no excuse for not reading ‘Runners’ World’ and ‘Women’s Running’; runners’ nutrition books and articles; and lots on running technique!

As said, famously (I can’t do the accent) ‘I will be back’!

Dineke Austin aka 'Running Biddy' - Blog 1: House of the Risin' Sun ('don' do what I have done')

Blog attempt #3: all will be revealed (for those who don’t follow Facebook).

Hello: a new Eagle, complete with very novice L plates, and errors to match.

A schoolgirl hater of all things sporty: where  - and WHY! - did my running journey begin? In 2013, my partner Trev was smitten by a pang of community conscience to volunteer as a marshal at the EHM. A free place for 2014 followed, so duty compelled me to marshal at a water station (no ‘nowty’ lorry drivers for me, thank you!). Did I take up my free place? You bet not. Trev being laid up in bed for the rest of the day; with erupting cold sores for the rest of the week, was little enticement.

2015 and Trev paid for his entry. Another water marshal role for me (the steel band at St Stephen’s is well worth the position). However…rushing down Argyle and Northfields to see Trev finish, and meeting all the (unknown) runners with beams and medals, left me feeling a tad left out.

Christmas 2015, and Trev bought me a year’s membership for a local gym. As I said to him (sorry Trev!): the worst present I’d ever had! However, the Dutch are as ‘careful’ with money as are Yorkshire lads (aka Trev), so reluctantly I made use of it.

And this is where it truly began: the self-competitive spirit that I’d used academically and professionally (for too long) reared its head, and before I knew it I was trying to beat my records on treadmill and cross-trainer! By April, I was wondering why someone with a lifelong love of the open air and hiking (my only previous claims to exercise) was pounding plastic indoors with ‘essence of exudation’!

Osterley has long been my favourite place in West London, so I asked to be entered for Osterley 10k in June 2015. After running round Blondin Park two evenings a week; I took part on just my 15th post-school run ever. (Beginners: what Beginners! I said ‘don’t do what I have done’!)  Looking back, I am amazed that I managed 1:01:49 on that ‘preparation’ (sic). At the time, I was outraged at that hour: the challenge was on! In September 2015 I took part in the Kew 10k: 54:06

After Trev took part in EHM for his 3rd time, and I met him like a bridesmaid always looking on, I saw the Ealing Eagles stand, and said “Let’s join.” We did.

Did I make use of everything that I now know EE offer? Did I know about Parkrun? Did I know about warming up and cooling down? (Rhetorical questions.)

Despite this, I managed 53:45 in November 2015 at the West London 10k, but only Dutch long legs got me there by luck rather than trained design. Inevitably, at Kingston in February 2016, I pulled what I only much later realised was my left hamstring, and was off and on running for months for much of that year. High spots as well as low spots:

Regular club runs;

Regular Parkruns;

Personal Trainer as a birthday present;

Subscription to running magazines;

Nutrition plans…

But most of all: the joys of volunteering, and becoming involved!

First race more than 10k: Fullers 10 mile in April 2016; first half marathon in Reykjavik in August 2016 (1:57:51!); first age prize for Wimbledon Common 10k in October (received via post as I was sitting for lunch with Trev, off running: I cried “I’ll never be able to do that again!”).

It would be lovely to think I had learned my lessons by then…but I always have learned the hard way ‘...our impulses are too strong for our judgement sometimes’.

Despite intervals with Richard, involvement with Wei Hei’s Beginners, a LiRF course in July 2017; and very patient mentoring by an excellent and experienced Eagle to get me to marathon readiness, my first marathon was City of Gloucester in August 2017 (4:06:33) – and I was disappointed – instead of feeling very very privileged. I also seemed to feel I was accident-protected, so not only took on my main goal – the Amsterdam Marathon (3:59:00) in October 2017 – but beforehand the Hillingdon Racing Miles marathon challenge (3: 57:46) in early October, AND the Thames Meander Marathon on 4th November… 4:19:10. Three marathons in 5 weeks. Disregarding all advice.

What possessed me I now have no idea! I don’t think I was suffering from hubris, I was loving it, but: I am not a Melissah or Piers, et al. And: at times it is worth remembering one’s date of birth!

Where did that leave me: a relatively minor over-stretching accident on marathon 3 left me sitting out some running, even races: just as I had joined the 12in12 challenge team. And – sorry Sarah – just as the much-anticipated x-country season began!

I came back for Osterley Winter 10k, to gain the age prize (despite wrong dob placing me in 55+ category – another lesson learned: always check!); only to have a freak ice accident over Christmas whilst under careful supervision from physio and PT; followed by another, while out with Beginners 2 weeks ago; which this time has resulted in complete cessation of running…just after winning a coveted, undreamed of, VLM ballot place! Thomas Hardy would have described the timing as ‘one of life’s little ironies’.

I very nearly gave up on VLM for this year; all my carefully-laid plans for a 16-week training schedule are now in their 3rd revision; the next blog is in danger of being a treatise on PHT: proximal hamstring tendinopathy.

However, as others have said before me: without Ealing Eagles, I wouldn’t have had the year’s running I had last year; I wouldn’t have had the support and camaraderie; the many volunteering opportunities; and I certainly wouldn’t have had the VLM opportunity I still have. Has ‘the President of the Immortals ended his sport’ with me?

As authors write, ‘any errors are entirely my own’: QED ‘don’ do what I have done’.