Client interview: Marathon runner, Rob, talks us through his recovery from a right knee meniscus tear

In this article, we have a detailed Q&A with our client Rob, a city-worker and marathon runner who came to us after suffering a meniscus tear in his right knee. In a thoroughly entertaining account, he talked us through his injury, recovery journey, and recovery motivation: his love for running.

Hi Rob, may you provide a bit of background about yourself?

Hi, I’m Rob. Once upon a time I had a job that required me to sit at a desk all day. Except for when I was eating my breakfast. And then a second breakfast (my work canteen does an excellent bacon sandwich). And then a big lunch with pudding (and extra custard – my work canteen does an awesome apple crumble with custard). I’d then go home and eat dinner. With more pudding. Somehow, I don’t know how, I got very heavy. My doctor said I was fat. In fact I think he said “obese”. My friends were too polite to call my obese, so they just called me fat. And so something had to happen.

And so four years ago I took up running (and I improved my diet – no more bacon butties). The weight dropped off, and overtime I was running longer and longer. Parkrunning became 10km and that became a half marathon and then I got excited one Christmas as I read a book that said it only takes 16 weeks to train for a marathon, so I did one of those. Okay, that was painful and although I learnt that for me anyway going from no running to a marathon in 6 months isn’t the best, I was hooked and over the next couple of years I managed to improve my marathon times. Okay, I was never going to be an elite level athlete, but the improvements were consistent and the weight was staying off…..

The Problem: a meniscus tear in the right knee

Why did you go to Technique? What health/fitness issue were you experiencing?

… and then in Feb 2020, disaster…… I was running a 10km “race” and my right knee went ping and I went ouch. But hey, that’s what happens sometimes! I finished the race, and kept on training/running – after all I had a spot in the April 2020 London Marathon and I needed to keep up the training for that.

However, unlike other running injuries, this one didn’t magically disappear. And after I spent 3 days limping around the office following a half marathon in March, I needed some help. And so after a trip to Technique and then to the doctor, I was told I had a meniscus tear in the right knee.

How did this issue affect your life? What fitness or life goals did it stop you from achieving?

So I mention above how running has helped me bring my weight under control, but it’s more than that. Running is just the best tonic for dealing with the stresses of day to day life. To be outside, running along trails, along a river, along a pathway, with nothing but your own thoughts is brilliant!. I once read that running is like drinking in reverse – the thinking is that with drinking you can’t wait to start, but are then left with a stinking hangover after; with running, the hardest part is starting, but when done, you feel great (that’s from an Adharanand Finn book– I can’t remember which one, but that doesn’t matter – just buy and read them all).

And so without running, and with lockdown striking, and with marathons and all running events cancelled, it was, well, really really awful….

Was the health/fitness issue painful?

The good thing was that it was only painful after a run. So for the most part life could continue as normal … but without running..

How did having your life goals put on hold or in jeopardy make you feel?

I was lucky in one sense that the injury coincided with lockdown, and the cancellation of events like the London Marathon. It meant that even though I couldn’t train, I wasn’t missing out on any events.

However, it was depressing, not only missing out on the enjoyment of running itself, but knowing that the fitness levels that had been slowly but steadily improving were slipping away…

The Solution: a tailored leg strengthening program

During your time with Technique what did they do to fix the problem?

Well the first lockdown hit just as I had been diagnosed. But Mike was great – he developed a programme for me that started building up strength in my legs, but also replaced running with cycling and swimming. I got myself a wetsuit and threw myself into the local river and practiced some open water swimming. I bought myself a bike and rode and rode and rode. And so although I couldn’t run, I still maintained some level of fitness and by the time the first lockdown had lifted I had entered myself into my first ever Triathlon. Wow, that was an experience. A 1.6km swim is quite a long way (even when its shortened to 800m).

Can you talk us through how they helped you?

The most significant breakthrough came when lockdown restrictions eased and Technique were able to re-open. I got 1:1 direct advice from Gus. He developed for me a very specific leg strengthening program, supervised my progress very closely, politely and patiently explained to me that I wasn’t improving because I wasn’t doing any of the exercises, and when I took his advice the improvements were immediately noticeable.

How did you find working with your trainer whilst recovering at Technique?

Mike and Gus were super helpful. Mike delivered to me a most excellent training program which saw me through Summer 2020 and into my first Triathlon. And then Gus worked his magic so much that I went back to running reasonably quickly after working through the program he had developed. My only regret is not going to see them as soon as the problem first arose in Feb 2020. The advice I was provided with and the support I was given was exceptional, and I now know who to call at the first sign of trouble…

The Results: return to running – and re-entering the London Marathon

What evidence is there that proves the issue is fixed?

I’m writing this having just finished my first half marathon since March 2020. I have continued on with the leg strengthening exercises Gus developed for me, and over the past 7 months I have slowly built up the running mileage so that I was able to re-start a proper 18 week training program for the now rescheduled London Marathon off a reasonable base.

The knee occasionally reminds me that a meniscus tear doesn’t properly heal, but the fact I can put together a good weekly mileage and a half decent long run without any significant pain shows what a great success Technique have been

How does it feel to be fit/fitter again after your physio with Technique?

It’s happiness. There is a joy to running that is (to me at least) impossible to describe but it’s a feeling that all runners know all too well. Its great to be getting fitter again, but most of all, it’s just great to be able to run. At certain times in 2020 I really didn’t think that would happen.

Can you continue progressing to achieve your fitness/life goal now?

Yes, my goal of a sub 2:10 marathon is now back on track! Although judging by the result of my latest half marathon, I will need about 30 years to get there…. Most importantly I’ve also learnt (the hard way) about the benefits of strength and conditioning and cross training. These used to be the chapters in running books I’d skip over…not anymore…