Top cross-country runner Andy Vernon is currently recovering from a stress fracture after a promising start to 2012
AS the McCain UK Cross Challenge got underway last weekend, former three-time winner Andy Vernon was conspicuous in his absence from the circuit as he endeavours to return to his best following injury.
The Aldershot, Farnham & District athlete has been arguably Britain’s top male cross-country runner on the domestic scene for the past few years. As well as being the Cross Challenge winner for three seasons before 2011-2, he won the Inter-Counties title in 2009 and 2011 and the National in 2010.
However, Vernon is taking his recovery from a stress fracture last spring week by week and not rushing back to feature this winter.
Olympic year had begun so promisingly for the 26-year-old. He clocked a PB of 13:23.20 for 5000m at the Mt SAC Relays on April 20 and nine days later ran 27:53.65 in Stanford and the Olympic ‘A’ standards of 13:20 and 27:40 looked possible. “I’d never been in that shape before,” he claimed. “One more race and I’d have got the 5km qualifying time.”
However, it was in Stanford that he first started to feel the pain which was later diagnosed as a stress fracture of the left navicular bone. What he thought would leave him out of action for just eight weeks took a lot longer to deal with.
“I had 10 weeks of completely no running at first and then I was able to do a bit of jogging,” recalled the 2008 European under-23 cross silver medallist. “I then got up to 40 minutes after about a month and then it broke down again and I had to have another 10 days completely off and then started back from square one again. Then it took me three weeks to get back up to 40 minutes.”
A 900-mile charity cycle ride from Britain to Monaco in September with fellow runners Jonny Hay and James Ellis meant he did no running for a week, but he believes it was beneficial for his rehabilitation.
“It was a spur-of-the-moment thing,” he said. “Part of the reason I justified it was that if I was going to be on the bike for 10 hours a day that’s a lot of cross-training done. I think if anything it brought me on, especially when we got into the last few days when we got into the mountains in southern France and it was literally uphill and then downhill, and the uphills were sometimes half an hour long.”
Vernon was up to 65 miles running last week but is clearly looking for a steady return rather than setting goals for this winter.
He said he may do the indoors rather than cross-country. In addition, the winter training trip is likely to be Kenya with the UKA squad rather than Falls Creek, Australia, which served him so well last year. His lack of racing last summer means financing the £3000 trip would be difficult.