RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog


I do like a challenge. I do like to push myself. But there are times when I take on more than I bargained for.

I knew when I signed up for the London Marathon that it would be hard work and it’d be painful and would be difficult.

But what I didn’t anticipate was just how physically painful the whole thing would be. And sadly, it’s been too painful.

It’s been well documented on here that I have dodgy knees…indeed, I even cancelled some surgery on my left knee to allow me to go to Afghan, but sadly my dodgy knees have failed me. My body has failed me. I have failed me.

I cannot take part in the marathon. I have had to pull out. And I feel rotten and terrible and worst of all that I have let everyone down.

I have let the RAFBF down because I said that I would try and raise as much money for them as possible, and I have let you down because I promised you that I would take part in the run, and I have let down people who have already sponsored me to run (and already donated nearly £2000) by not actually being able to do what I promised, and I have let myself down for not being able to do it.

So what’s wrong? Well, I have major knee issues on my left knee – a particular thing called a Plica (it’s like a cyst) and ligament problems AND patella tendonitis. And because of the distances I am doing as part of the training that is causing a lot of pain, and the associated limping and labouring has spread the patella tendonitis to my right knee.

Initially it was manageable and I was only in a small amount of pain when running, but as the mileage increased the pain lingered and left me limping and struggling on stairs after the run. Eventually it hungover so that I was still in pain the day after the run. And limping.

This made even walking the dog round the block painful. It made it difficult at work as stairs were very painful – imagine a needle being jabbed into the bottom of your kneecap on every step up and down – and then find yourself working on the first floor of a building without a lift!

And it all came to a head last Sunday. Sunday was the day I would have my long run…and I went out ready to run a half-marathon around the leafy lanes of sunny Surrey. I plodded off after my warm up and the pain was immediately higher than I had suffered so far. And I got 2 miles into the route and found myself walking because of the pain. And after half a mile more I couldn’t run at all. I completely broke down and had to phone my wife to come and pick me up in the car.

Needless to say, I wasn’t happy. The next day I was still in pain and found it difficult to walk the dog, and had to go to see the doc.

He confirmed…patella tendonitis and referred me to the physio. And told me in no uncertain terms, given my history, ‘no running’. And to cope with the pain…Ibuprofen 600mg. Proper horse tablets. (Obviously this has had a benefit that I can have a few glasses of wine of an evening and not have to worry about a hangover in the morning!)

And so here I am. Waiting for the physio to kick in. Walking only. Not training – and when I do, not running or biking. I did try to stick some weight on my back and think about tabbing the Marathon. But the doc said this was not a good idea.

What this means is a bit deeper than just not being able to run the marathon though.

It is the first time I have failed at something I have set out to do. At times the training for going to Afghan was hard, and I thought that I wouldn’t be able to make it. There were times that actually being in Afghan was hard and I thought I wouldn’t get through the deployment, but I did. I pushed and, to be honest, in a test of me against Afghan, it was a test of me against me; mind over matter. And I won.

But this has been different, it’s a test of me against my body and my body has won. I have failed. When it comes to it, my body is weak, but it is still stronger than my mind. I just couldn’t handle the pain, and the potential of long term damage is just too much to keep me pounding the street.

But this makes me think how lucky I am.

There are people, people who I know personally, friends I made in Afghan, who have no choice. Double amputees who have to keep going on. People who are in pain 24/7.

These are very special people. It goes to show me what I knew all along. They are stronger, braver…better than me. I am a pale shadow in comparison to their shining light.

I wish I was stronger. I wish my body was stronger. And this links back to a recent blog post of mine about heroes.

A hero is someone who you aspire to be. Someone who you look to for an example. Someone who you want to be.

I can’t and don’t see myself as any of that. But those people… Those who accept the pain of life-changing injuries with good grace and humour. Who accept that they just have to get on with life after it. Who just ‘crack on’. They are heroes.

And then there are those people who the RAFBF are helping on a day to day basis. Not just young men and women who have been injured in recent conflicts. There are those people who have struggled and suffered for years – fought against disability, pain or mental health – and have done so without morning about it.

They have just cracked on. They all are heroes.

And me? What am I to do? I can’t ‘crack on’. In this case I am not strong enough to do it. Now.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll be like this forever. Well I hope not. I will get my knees sorted. I will get myself fixed.

I will do it for a couple of reasons. One – it’s important to be fit and healthy, but the most important thing is that I owe it to everyone who has been hurt, injured or affected by some sort of trauma to get better so I can be stronger, to learn and grow and to be able to do something to raise the funds that people like the RAF Benevolent Fund need to help them.

But most of all I owe it to me to be fit for me.


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7 thoughts on “Failure…

  1. Awww bless, I’m so sorry to hear about your injury, as you say, your health has to come first, sweetheart, cause without that, you can’t do anything, so concentrate on getting better, and I’m sure there are other things you can do instead of the Marathon when you are better. I wish you a speedy and full recovery. Take Care, Remain Safe, God Bless you and your Family ❤ xxx

  2. JulesO on said:

    You’re only a failure when you stop and give up. I don’t see any signs of that. You’re just doing a forward recce, before pushing onwards. Even Heroes do that.

  3. Just a thought – could you swap running 26 miles for swimming 26 miles? Same distance, just a different fitness challenge.

  4. You poor thing – that is both sad and disappointing – I applaud the tenacity you have in wanting to help people that you know are less fortunate than you. But I think there are lessons too in learning to know your limitations – it sounds like even attempting (If you could!) to push on you could have longer term undesirable consequences so there is a strength in deciding to do yourself the service of waiting until you can do it. It sounds like you will at some point once God has decided that any lessons in patience are done for the time being! x

  5. Sorry to hear that you can’t do the run! But you haven’t failed, you didn’t choose to give up because of weakness of mind, you simply had no choice! Don’t be hard on yourself. It’s the thought and effort that counts the most, and it sounds like you put in a mighty fine effort! I think everyone understands the situation and appreciates all you’ve done so far. This one just wasn’t meant to be!

  6. I have to agree with Becky. The job you do is often very physical and there is a tendency to pick up the odd injury / niggle along the way and think little of it at the time. From personal (ex RAF) experience (lower back probs, a tendency toward achilles tendonitis, dodgy knees etc) they then come along and bite you in the bum when you least expect it or want it! I suggest that you get your injuries fixed, do the rehab/ physio as required, then see what developes. Having seen a chap in his 80s finishing the 5 mile run at the Olympic stadium, I would respectfully suggest you stil have time on your side.

  7. Lee Robinson on said:

    I see no shame in giving up because if injury. Once you are through this set back and you knees are repaired, then you can crack on. So what if the marathon has to wait another year. Just doing what you do, day in day out makes you a hero to us in civvy street. You are always in our thoughts. Stay safe

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