He turns, eyes burning into mine . . . ‘ice baths! Take plenty’

My saviour of the deep tissue massage rescued my legs from derelict uselessness and restored my determination

Shuffling down the stairwell, I limp down to the appointment. Descending to the basement floor, daylight becomes fake light, glass becomes concrete. Entering a narrow corridor, changing rooms are to the left, a small gym studio to the right. I head for the shut door directly ahead. Light leaks from the bottom of the doorframe.

A stairway is supposed to take you up to heaven: I’ve just descended to mine.

I open the door to meet my saviour. Tasked, not with turning water into wine, not feeding five thousand; but simply to rescue my legs from the derelict uselessness they reside in.

Time is of the essence, as well as paid for, but before I know it I’m a cyclist again. Social desirability out the window; status quo, just a funny word after a band my dad listens to . . . and I’ve taken all my clothes off.


My saviour works his magic on my calves first, using his only necessary tool – his elbow. It delves deeper into spasming fibres, and I find myself travelling further backwards into my past.

I’m lying beside Doc. We’re not in the DeLorean, but the table’s face-hole is our vortex, taking me back to old massage locations:

In derelict Breton schools, used as Race HQs whilst garçons et filles are off for the summer.

In corridors of pokey French ultra-low-budget F1Hotels, with rooms too small for any extra furniture, light years from their glamorous namesake.

And a personal favourite: during a stage in Ireland’s own Rás Tailteann, a fully functioning care home.

A rub is more than a rub. It’s a time where doubts can be shared with confidence. I explain to Mr Saviour of my self-induced anxiety from boasting to an entire nation I can complete The Eden Project Marathon on October 14th in just three hours, after preparing for only three months. Adding that the tensions he’s feeling in my legs have prevented running for the past couple of weeks.

The pain sharpens

Working on quads now, silence strangles me as I wriggle about the table, his total bodyweight against my upper thigh. The last diary’s mind conference has formed a circle committee, chanting ‘The Greater Good’, as the pain sharpens.

After a lifetime, he’s finished. I still stay silent, I want to hear what he has to say. Saviours do, as saviours do – he does not let me down.

“Your legs are in good condition, adjusting to running after years of cycling, good luck in your goal . . .”

Saviours are cunning too; they keep it vague.

I don’t care though, his advice is good enough for me: my ego laps it up like a glutton stuffs themselves with cake.

Then he turns, eyes burning into mine,

“. . . ice baths! Take plenty. After every run. Stop any swelling.”

With that we’re done. With a whoosh, he was gone.

A week on, I run without a hobble, but plenty more wheezing lines the airwaves around me. Fitness is the main challenge I now find myself fighting, but a deep-tissue massage conjured up other feelings I craved. Feelings of determination, absence of doubt.

I will complete The Eden Project marathon, even if it takes me a week. I’ve the rest of my life to recover.

With each session, I grow a stronger. Passion glows as one foot strides in front of the other. Massages cost money and ice baths aren’t pre-prepared anymore, but still, you’ll find me chucking bags of ice cubes, fit for cocktails, over my weakened body post-workout.s

Maybe it would be more peaceful if I turned the hot tap on, tumbled in some bath salts, switched on some jazz, lit some candles?

But, what is the sense in that?

Daniel Stewart is writing a regular column about his attempt to run a sub-three-hour marathon with three months’ training