Helen Johnson broke both wrists at an ultramarathon – she's making her return to racing at Derbion Ramathon
14 June 2022
14 June 2022
This year’s Derbion Ramathon is set to be a big event for Helen Johnson. Sustaining two broken wrists and a head injury at an ultramarathon in 2020 meant that she had to take a long hiatus from competitive and organised running events. However, she’s excited to be getting back out there on Sunday 19th June! “My only hope is to cross the finish line with a smile on my face (and no injuries),” she says.
Like many other people, Helen credits running with getting her through lockdown, and she entered many virtual events throughout this time. When in-person events started again, she was excited to enter an ultramarathon in Leicestershire. “My only aim was to stay on track for the whole 6 hours. Unfortunately, 3 hours into the run I fell (rather spectacularly as well – I’m always fully committed to whatever I set my heart on!).”
“I knew I was injured as I sat on the gravel track with blood trickling down my face and feeling rather queasy, but little did I know that I’d broken both wrists.”
The other race participants were very supportive, including one runner who stopped his race to alert the event paramedics. “A trip to Leicester Royal Hospital later that day confirmed a bi-lateral break – and so the recovery began,” Helen recalls.
“In the first few weeks, literally everything was an obstacle – getting in/out of bed, dressing, cooking, eating, getting in/out a car, shopping, getting comfortable on the sofa, sleeping. But, where there is a will, there’s a way. For those who know me they know I love a challenge and just how persistent/stubborn I can be – and recovery from injury is just another challenge!”
Helen took three months off work and then made a phased return over a period of three months. However, from day one, she was getting out and about. “Throughout this time, instead of running, I walked – literally any and every where I could – round the block, to the shop, to the café…anything to keep active.” When the weather was icy or cold, she would use her static bike inside – although she says that she definitely prefers running to cycling.
In October 2021, Helen took part in her first post-injury event, which was a Halloween themed trail run. “Supported by a couple of amazing running buddies I conquered the 5 miles, around a very hilly woodland, in the pitch dark, and dressed as a zombie butcher. It was great to be back, but the fear of falling again kept me from running regularly over the winter months.”
“In March 2022, when the weather had picked up, I started running again. This time I used the 15-week Half Marathon training plan in Garmin Coach to guide and motivate me. I’ve tried to be kind to myself during this time, and I’ve not always stuck 100% to plan. Now, I’m running three times a week, where I can, and back up to 2 hours of running (it’s slow and not particularly graceful, but I’m out there doing it!).”
Ramathon coincides with the end of the training plan, so she thought that looking forward to this race would be a good motivator. “I’m really excited to be taking part in a half marathon – I definitely didn’t think I’d be back to this distance if you’d asked me this question earlier in the year. The fear of falling is still there (almost a year later), it’s not as strong but the anxiety does sometimes creep back in.”
Helen has found that going easy on herself, as well as using low-pressure events such as Parkrun to practise running with other people, have helped her with her recovery. “Apart from looking where I am running, my accident has taught me to be kinder to myself. On the days I didn’t feel like running, I walked. And on the days I didn’t feel like walking, I gave myself a break and treated myself to a soak in the bath or time spent with a good book.”
To anyone else recovering from a sporting related injury, Helen keeps her advice simple. “Keep active and positive, take any pressure off yourself – if you want to get back out there doing what you love, you will (it just takes time) – and never give up on your dream.”