Don’t run away from help
Injuries are a nightmare for athletes.
William DeSilva was relatively new to running when the pain set in.
He easily treated the bursitis in his hip with a short break from exercise, but the inflammation in his left Achilles that came later refused to budge.
The timing wasn't great. The pain appeared a month before the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon, which challenges runners to complete a 5K, 10K and half-marathon in the space of a weekend. Somehow he “managed through”.
“I set [personal bests] in the 10K and the half-marathon,” the 57-year-old businessman said of his November 2018 feat. “I came eighth out of 300 in my age group in the 10K (50min 40sec) and sixteenth out of 299 in my age group in the half-marathon (2hr 16min). It confirmed that I did enjoy running and could undertake any challenge put in front of myself.”
Mr DeSilva, who shared his story to highlight World Physical Therapy Day, ultimately sought help from Maureen Ryan, a physiotherapist with Myotherapy Centre.
“I was hesitant to go to physio because I believed I was going to be told you need to take time off and there would be a regimen of exercises that I needed to do to help recover from [my Achilles/tendinitis problem],” he said. “Having been through the process and seeing how I can now run pain-free, I would encourage anyone nursing or managing injury to see a physio because they likely can be helpful in the recovery process. Just taking time off doesn't sort it out.”
He picked up the sport just over two years ago, inspired by the Bermuda Half Marathon Derby. To his surprise, as he stood cheering runners on at the top of Store Hill on May 24, there were some who shouted out to him: “You should be here!”
“Years ago I'd played football and rugby, but packed it in because of knee injuries,” he said. “I'd always been encouraged by people participating in their chosen sports and that day it just resonated with me. It was a Wednesday, on the Saturday morning I decided to give it a try.”
Bolstered by the knowledge that if he didn't enjoy it he never had to do it again, he “threw on his clothes” and went for a two-mile run.
“The next day nothing hurt, and I did it again,” said Mr DeSilva, a keen golfer who usually walked the course. “In that first week I probably ran five days in total. It's not like I had no exercise whatsoever before, but all of a sudden my body was doing something repeatedly that it was not used to.”
And then his daughters gifted him with a Garmin for Father's Day. A sports watch targeted at road runners and triathletes, it helped him track his distance, pace and time.
“Once I started seeing the data and saw how I could improve, it became lots of fun,” Mr DeSilva said.
He became part of Bermuda's racing community, competing in the David Saul Memorial 5K that November and the Jingle Bell 5K the following month.
“I wound up doing slightly better than I expected,” he said. “The running community is a very welcoming community and I really enjoyed the experience and decided I would do it again.”
Before he knew it, he was hooked, and training with Steve Burgess in preparation for the 2018 Bermuda Day race.
“Only a year before I'd been sitting on the side cheering people on,” Mr DeSilva said. “I ran it in 2:02.
“My goal was to break two hours but I cramped up at the end.”
Despite the slight disappointment, it was a fantastic experience for him.
“My senses during the race were overwhelmed. You see people at the bus stops, on the side of the roads, at Burnt House Hill, Crow Lane cheering, and you hear your name yelled out every so often. You just feel it from beginning to end. I enjoyed it.”
He signed up for the Disney races eager to discover how his running was coming along and which distance suited him best. His takeaway from the experience was “that training is key and staying injury-free is also important”.
Back in Bermuda he took time off from running and then resumed his training with the help of anti-inflammatories.
“I waited to see a physiotherapist because I didn't want to hear that I had to take [any considerable] time off,” he said, explaining that he'd set his sights on the annual Bermuda Race Weekend in January and the London Marathon in April, having gained a spot through the Mid Atlantic Athletic Club.
With the Bermuda Half Marathon a month later, he decided to wait until after that to deal with his Achilles, by then a chronic problem.
“Maureen immediately did assessments and told me no running for four weeks,” he said. “I started seeing her regularly — once a week for four or five weeks and now once every three to four weeks as part of my maintenance programme.
“It's allowed me to feel no pain during or subsequently after my runs, which is wonderful.”
Ms Ryan treated Mr DeSilva at her offices and gave him exercises to do at home which “strengthened or improved” his problem areas.
When he finally received the green light to hit the roads again, he was given a limit of 2K.
“She was [initially] very guarded and cautious. She was worried that the first week I would be out running 30 miles. She was very firm.”
Eventually the miles built up. Mr DeSilva is now running between 30 and 45 miles each week in preparation for the Chicago Marathon next month. He also uses a stationary bike once a week and jumps rope — as recommended by Ms Ryan.
“I'm doing long runs right now — nothing shorter than 13 miles — and there's no pain or discomfort through any of those,” he said.