The art of falling down while running

Tripped up and fell over running yesterday. Didn’t mean to, obviously. Running down a pavement, and came across a big Volvo that was wedged half on the pavement, half on the road. Dropped down onto the road to get past it, messed up my footing, got my right foot tangled in my badly tied left shoelace and… down I went.

Amazingly, I was basically completely unscathed. That was a pleasant surprise.

By rough count, this was the sixth time I’ve tripped up and tumbled in just over two years of running. I’ve no idea if that’s a lot or not. But this was the first time I managed to avoid bleeding, which I’m taking as a good sign of progress.

So here’s the art of how to fall over while running.

1: The trip

This is the point that starts the whole process. Of my previous five falls, two were early in my running ‘career’, and were caused by me tripping on rubbish shoelaces on rubbish trainers. Two can be attributed to getting caught out on a patch of slippery icy or wet pavement. And one was caused by me misjudging a bump in the road and getting my footing wrong.

Something else that’s odd: I’ve never fallen over during a race. I’ve fallen over twice on the way to one, but never during one. In fact, all my falls have come when I’ve been taking it easy. Which I put down to the fact I slacked off and shorten my stride a bit.

The thing is, I trip and stumble loads while running. Most times, I catch myself and just keep on running. The times you don’t? Pretty much just dumb luck.

2: The stumble and fall

This is the bit when you realise you’re going down. Normally I realise this is happening when, instead of seeing the path ahead of me, my view suddenly changes to the ground approaching. Fast. There’s also the strange sensation when you expect to feel forward momentum, and realise your momentum is largely downwards.

This is one of those ‘time slows down’ moments – and there ain’t much you can do about it. There’s a brief moment when you realise you’re about to hit the ground, and it’s probably going to hurt, but not much you can consciously do about it. Everything that happens from here on in is pure instinct.

Good luck, instinct. Don’t let me down. Did I tell you how much I love you?

3: Contact

This is the bit that hurts. Falling doesn’t hurt. Hitting the ground hurts.

Now, this is the point where your instinct needs to do its job. If you get it right, as I did yesterday, you’ll somehow launch yourself into a acrobatic roll, spreading the contact across your body and reducing the force of impact. Do that successfully, and you’ll escape as I did last night with a very mild graze and no ill effects.

If your instinct gets it wrong, and you’ll end up landing hard on your hands and/or knees, or your side, or otherwise getting the impact centred on a small part of your body. That’s when it hurts.

4: Stopping

This is the confusing bit. Your brain is probably still expecting you to be running. Instead you’re sitting/slumped/crumpled on the ground, trying to work out why you’re not running and where you are.

5: Denial

At this point, my usual trick is to look around and hope nobody else noticed. Someone else has normally noticed. At which point, before they can run over going ‘are you okay’, my normal trick is to jump up and go ‘I’m okay. No, no, honestly, I’m okay!’

Once that’s done and any lovely, helpful onlookers have left me in peace, I start to work out if I’m actually okay.

6A: The ‘I’m okay’ bewilderment

On rare occasions, such as happened to me yesterday, you’ll actually be unscathed. At which point you’ll be confused, and in a strange way a little bit worried, that you’re not hurting more. Of course, it’s better than…

6B: Owwwwwwwwwwwwwww

This is when you realise you’ve scraped yourself good and proper, have a few cuts, and parts of your body ache. This is when you have to be all grown up and try to work out if it’s just painful flesh wounds, or if you’ve properly hurt yourself and might need treatment. Luckily, I’ve never experienced the latter option. Fingers crossed.

7: Suck it up and carry on

Well, you’ve got to get home, and even fi you’re hurting it’s going to take longer to walk than run. So even if you’re sore and aching, you might as well just run on (unless all common medical sense suggest otherwise, obviously…). This is when you try to look like you’re hard in front of any onlookers. And hey, if you’re bleeding a bit, you’re going to look really hard. Right? Right?

8: Finish the run. Owwwwwwww again

When you finally get home, shut your front door, get a bit of privacy and start going ‘that really hurts! Waaaaahhhhhhh…’


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