Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Dignity in de feet?

In this past week of running I have experienced every emotion, from joy at completing 16km , to misery and shame when I couldn’t manage even 7km and skulked home after 5km, with two new blisters. 
Blisters are a common, and hopefully minor annoyance. As a doctor, I really ought to know exactly what to do with blisters. In truth, I wasn't really sure.  Most of what I know about blisters I learned in the New Zealand bush, where the standard advice was to pop them and then apply a chemical “second skin”, like Compeed. This seems to have worked well, but these recent blisters, and the plethora of contradictory and confusing advice I’ve had from runners, doctors and other concerned supporters caused me to pause and look for some scientific answers.
It turns out that there isn’t much consensus on blisters. What I was hoping for, a systematic review of the evidence base of friction blister treatment, either isn’t out there or is hiding itself well. I did find this superb review article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine

The authors advise lancing painful blisters with something sharp and sterile. Popping blisters with unsterile or blunt objects risks introducing infection, sepsis and cellulitis. 
The old adage “prevention is better than cure” is probably one I was foolish to ignore. So as well as stocking up on compeed and investing in some anti-blister socks, which are just the most comfortable socks ever, I bought some new running shoes.

"No ma'am"

It probably says quite a lot that I’ve always chosen running shoes by colour in the past. Hovering round the imposing wall of running shoes at NikeTown a couple of days ago, a beaming teenage sales-boy approached me with, “huh, you ok there ma’am?”. 
“Yes,” I replied confidently, trying not to exude the un-coolness that NikeTown somehow draws out of me, “I’d like some new running shoes and am trying to decide between these pink and those purpley mauve ones.”
“What are you training for?” the beautiful youth wanted to know.
“The marathon, the London marathon,” I said, feeling my coolness counter rising by the second.
“Have you just started training?” he asked.
Coolness back in the zero stakes. Why would he ask that? 
“You wouldn’t want to run in those pink shoes ma’am. No, those are more dance shoes.”
“But they are on the running shoes wall,” I was indignant.
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” he shrugged, “But you wouldn’t want to run in them.
Here, try these on.”
And he handed me a pair of chunky looking bright white shoes, with fluorescent peach and intense eye-watering blue trim, that have been designed by someone either profoundly and totally colour blind or with a wry sense of humour. 

They are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. Each foot felt pampered in its own four poster bed of a running shoe. But fluorescent peach? 

The future's bright

Needless to say, the shoes didn’t come in any other colour. I haven’t seen such a glow since I got my highlighter pen out for final exams. All this preoccupation with fluorescent trimmed footwear and sore feet made me think again of Merlin, and of literally being “in their shoes”.
A good friend from university, who is currently in Cairo, wrote me a very touching email this week, “most of the hotels here are full of people from Libya and Syria seeking treatment from gunshot wounds. I am glad you are running for Merlin.”
Again, I asked myself, could you put yourself in their shoes? 
I’d like to give all readers a chance to do that, by sharing five impossible choices Merlin workers face

If that exercise has prompted you to sponsor me, you can do so easily here
What happens to your money?
  • £15 could buy enough chlorine tablets to give clean water to over 1,000 people
  • £50 could buy health kits for five community midwives, including basic drugs and supplies
  • £100 could help buy a summer health kit, with the essential drugs to treat waterborne diseases. Each health kit treats 200 people
Thank you to everyone who has been so generous, either with sponsorship, blister advice, or just by not laughing at the fluorescent peach trimmed runners. It all means a lot. 

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