Injured Training for a Marathon - What to do?
You’ve been training hard for this marathon. You’ve done everything right, stuck to your plan, increased your mileage slowly – but all of a sudden, you
can’t run. That dreaded running injury that everyone warned you about strikes, and you can’t figure out why? You think to yourself “what have I done
wrong?”. Let me put your mind a little bit at ease to let you know, it happens a lot. Yes, injuries happen for a reason and there will be root causes
to it, but if it’s your first marathon or you’re new to this kind of training and distance, its hard to know what your body’s injury threshold is until
you reach that point. Sadly, we often figure this out the hard way.
What is the Injury Threshold?
The injury threshold is the breaking point at which you develop an injury based on numerous factors such as: your genetics, recovery ability, bony structure, biomechanics, strength, flexibility, and of course training load.You may have the strength and structure to be able to cope with 10km 3x per week, but you may not naturally have the ability to double that distance. It doesn’t mean you CAN’T run a marathon, but just that there may be other things you need to assist your body with to get there such as strengthening, stretching, increasing your recovery time, or even changing how you run. Have a look at our blog on the injury threshold to find out more about this here.
I’m Injured, only weeks before the marathon – what do I do?
First things first. If running is painful, stop running into pain.You may be able to run X minutes without pain, but not Y, so only do X. If you can keep moving, either through cross training (elliptical, swimming, cycling) without going into those painful zones, great. If you can’t, seek help from your physiotherapist asap. Find out the cause of your injury. If you don’t know where it’s coming from or WHY you have it, then you need to find someone who can help you. Its all well and good to rub the pain, but if it doesn't help you get to the bottom of it, move on. A 3D gait analysis can help you here, or a physiotherapist/sports therapist who specialises in running injuries. Don’t just REST!!! It might be that you’ve done too much too quickly and something has become irritated as a result, but I would still suggest seeing someone about it – like I said before, these things don’t just happen and time is not on your side at the moment!
Coming back from injury into training
Lets say you’ve developed and injury, had to stop running, but then have sorted it out. Now you only have a few weeks until the race, and you’ve missed a lot of training. What should you do? Make up all of your runs by combining them? NO. Please don’t do that. You’re basically poking a dragon if you attempt to ‘make up’ for lost miles. Believe it or not, you actually don’t need to run the full 26 miles prior to racing it. It’s a weird concept, but most training programmes only go until 22 miles ( or for some people 18!). You are much more likely to get injured in those last few weeks of training by doing too much.
Bottom line, don’t make up for lost miles, continue to increase it slowly and see where you get to. When in doubt, as your running coach/physiotherapist the best way to proceed!
To race or not to race
This is a tough call. If you’re so injured and can’t run, or, you CAN run, but you know you’ll only make it a few miles before you have to throw in the towel, you may need to make a decision. When you train so hard for something, it can be really difficult to just let it go. As well, if you’ve been raising money for charity, you almost feel obligated to do it. I get it. You’ve got a few options:
1.)Call it a day – If you really can’t run, what’s the point of putting yourself through that misery of trying. You’re only going to be in pain and likely have to drop out somewhere along the course. Personally, id rather not start, than give up in the middle.
2.)Walk-Run – If you’re at a stage where you can handle a little bit of loading at a time, walk/running might be your solution. This will depend on your injury had how progressive it is as you go. Be mentally prepared that you may also end up having to drop out at some-point along the course.
3.)Run as far as you can – You might be in the mentality that you need to try as hard as you can to get as far as you can. Again, be prepared to walk or completely pull out.
Guidelines on running in pain:
Just to review, there are a few ‘rules’ I would suggest taking into account when you’re running with an injury to ensure you don't make it worse.
- Don’t run through progressive pain – pain that gets worse as you go.
- Stop running if you feel consistent sharp pains – not the dull achey ones, but the sharp ones that take your breath away.
- Don’t run with pain over a 4/10
- Pain that lasts longer than an hour after you’re finished – this one is hard to tell, but it is based on your recovery time. If you can’t run 6 miles without hours or days or pain afterwards, imagine what 26 miles will do.
Remember – it’s just a race. One race. They happen all the time, all year round. Yes, you may have raised money for charity, but I guarantee that everyone who has sponsored you has done so because they believe in your cause and don’t want you to torture yourself to do it. One race, is not worth the possible year (or more) of recovery and rehab you could put yourself through.
This article was written from a physiotherapists point of view and experience. It's not referenced directly due to the content, however references are available on request.
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