Running injuries are usually overuse injuries of the foot, lower leg, knee, and hip. View the most common injuries here:
Below are some of the more common injuries which affect runners.
Foot and heel
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Bruised heel
- Broken heel bone (Calcaneal fracture)
- Athletes foot
- Ingrown toenail
- Heel spur
- Extensor tendonitis
- Metatarsal fracture
Lower leg and ankle
- Shin splints
- Calf pain
- Ankle pain
- Ankle sprain
- Calf strain
- Achilles tendonitis
- Achilles tendon rupture
- Peroneal tendonitis
- Broken leg
- MCL sprain (medial ligament sprain)
- Medial cartilage meniscus injury
- ACL injury (anterior cruciate ligament sprain)
- Iliotibial band syndrome
- Jumpers knee (patella tendonitis)
- LCL sprain (lateral ligament injury)
- Osgood Schlatters Disease
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome
Hip & groin
Should I seek professional treatment?
If you have any of the following symptoms you should seek further medical assistance.
- Severe pain, especially on walking
- Severe swelling (oedema)
- Altered sensation in the foot – such as a feeling of “pins and needles” (paresthesia) or a “loss of feeling” (anaesthesia).
- Unable to complete normal daily activities after the initial 72 hours.
Further medical assistance can be sought through either your local GP or a private clinician such as a podiatrist, physiotherapist, sports therapist, osteopath or chiropractor. If you have followed the P.R.I.C.E. principles (see below) and are still unable to walk after 72 hours or still have severe pain that is not subsiding after the first 72 hours you should visit your local A&E department for further assessment.
Secondly, if you have applied for P.R.I.C.E. principles and still have weakness that lasts a long time (more than 2 weeks) or have ongoing discomfort in your foot or heel, you are highly recommended to seek advice from a specialist expert - such as a podiatrist or physiotherapist, osteopath, or chiropractor - who can provide you with advice and an appropriate and effective recovery and rehabilitation program.
Immediate first aid for acute injuries
The PRICE principles are the gold standard set for treating acute sports injuries. The acronym stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation and should be applied as early as possible and continued for at least the first 24-72 hours.
Protection of the damaged tissue is vital to prevent further damage and enable the healing process to start efficiently and effectively. There are a number of ways to protect the injured area all with the same aim of limiting further movement and use of the joint/muscle/ligament/tendon. One way this can be achieved is by using a support or splint.
In the early stages, rest is one of the most important components of the P.R.I.C.E principle but is often neglected or ignored. It does not only refer to the prolonged period of time that the athlete will be out of action but also to the immediate period after the injury.
An athlete must know when to stop training and allow the injured area to heal otherwise repetitive minor injuries can often result in a more severe injury that keeps the athlete out for much longer.
If an injury is sustained during sporting activity some athletes have a tendency to 'run it off'. This implies that by continuing to participate in the exercise, the injury will simply go away. In fact, in the majority of cases, this is not true and is not advisable.
Ice therapy, also known as cryotherapy, is one of the most widely known and used treatment modalities for acute sports injuries. It is cheap, easy to use and requires very little time to or expertise to prepare.
The application of ice to an injury, in the acute phase, can substantially decrease the extent of the damage. It achieves this in a number of different ways:
Decreases the amount of bleeding by closing down the blood vessels (called vasoconstriction).
Reduces pain (pain gate theory)
Reduces muscle spasm
Reduces the risk of cell death (also called necrosis) by decreasing the rate of metabolism
Ice is usually applied to the injured site by means of a bag filled with crushed ice which is wrapped in a damp towel. The damp towel is essential as it forms a barrier between the bag of ice and the skin and reduces the risk of an “ice burn”. DO NOT leave the ice on for more than 15 minutes as you could cause an “ice burn”.
There are a small number of areas that you should not apply ice to which include the neck, the outside bone of the elbow, the collar bone (upper end), the front of the hip (bony part) and the outer bone of the knee. The reason for this is there is a superficial nerve just below the skin in these areas that can be damaged by applying ice to it. Always check for contraindications.
Applying compression to an injured area minimises the amount of swelling that forms after an injury in two ways and should be applied for the first 24 to 72 hours from the onset of injury. Compression can be applied through a number of methods. The most effective of these is by using a compression bandage which is an elasticated bandage that simply fits around the affected limb.
Elevation of the injured limb is the final principle of PRICE but is equally as important as the other 4. Elevation allows gravity to drain the fluid away from the injured site. This aids in decreasing the swelling which in turn may decrease the pain associated with the oedema (swelling).
Read more on PRICE principles
Race Day Tips
Former Elite Marathon runner Paul Evans gives his inside hints and tips of how to make the most of race day for any big city marathon including the London Marathon.
Transcript: Make sure you get there in plenty of time, make sure you know where you're going, make sure you know where your start is, especially if it's a big city marathon because there are going to the thirty-five thousand other people who are going to be there on the day. Make sure you know where your start is and you're not rushing around with your heart rate already up. Don't do anything different on race day which you haven't done in training, ie, don't wear new shoes, don't wear new kit because it could rub and be very painful. Don't experiment with any drinks that you haven't tried. That is the key one. So many people I mean I know at London will have their drinks sponsors, make sure you've used that drink in your training runs because there's nothing worse than getting an upset stomach at 21, 22 miles and ending up sitting at the side of the road.
Always take loads of warm clothes because you never know, if you're talking about London, any big city marathon, any marathon, come to that, it could be cold and it's always best to have too many clothes because you can take them off, I mean even if it's gloves and hats, to begin with, you can always peel them off as you start the race. So, I wouldn't stand there in a vest shivering, you know, even if it's having a long sleeve T-shirt and cutting the hole so that your numbers sticking out, you know, there's all sorts of things like that that you can do.
Make sure you don't run the first few miles too quick. Because it's very very easy to do because you've just had a week of training, you haven't done any training, it's the day of the race, you're all excited or what have you, that gun goes and it's so, so easy to get caught up in somebody else's race, somebody else's pace and believe me it will find you out somewhere along the line.
From Tower Bridge going right out to Canary Wharf which I always used to call, I think it was Eamonn Martin used to call the dead zone. Because you're running away from the finish, it's where the crowds get a little bit thinner and it's a time in the race where, you know, if you're going to lose it, mentally that's where you're going to lose it. I used to have to really concentrate for that six miles and it used to be really really tough because if it's going to fall apart, that's where it's going to fall apart.
It's very very important that you drink early on in a marathon, if you don't, a lot of people leave it until they're thirsty, it's too late by then, you're dehydrated. the best thing to do is always drink little and often. So at your first drink station take a drink. Make sure you're well hydrated before the race, and obviously the night before as well. Just make sure you're drinking loads the three days leading up to the marathon.
My diet used to be about eighty-five percent carbohydrate. So I would just make sure, the evening before the race I would have a little bit more carbohydrate than I would normally have as well. So you're standing on the start line, it doesn't matter if you're standing on the start line and you feel about a pound over weight, it doesn't matter at all, in fact, the sign is it's a good way to be.
You do lots of your training during your long runs too, so you can actually try, train your body, to actually keep going when you do hit that wall. There are lots of drinks, lots of isotonic drinks, you've all heard about the pasta parties and things like that, that all helps, because it gives you glycogen which your body uses as fuel anyway. You run out of glycogen, your muscles run out of glycogen is when you hit the wall. So you can stand on that start line really loaded up with glycogen and drink, some good fuel and hopefully that will take you through the twenty-six mile.
I just used to write my splits on my arms, so I went through at five k, I knew what I wanted to go through at five k and ten k and if you went through a bit quicker you could slow it down.
I think everybody should do the London Marathon at least once in their life because it's such a fantastic experience. Yes it is a long way, it's twenty-six miles but you know it's just the camaraderie is just absolutely fantastic between the athletes and every mile there are bands playing, it's really a lot of fun. And crossing that line is just a unique experience whether you're running two hours six minutes or you're running six hours it doesn't matter. New York's the same, New York, you go to New York and the atmosphere there is absolutely unbelievable as well and to run around one of the major cities in the world. Yeah, Big City Marathons are very very special.
Across the running community, people are beginning to ditch their expensive, high-tec running shoes in favor of taking to the streets barefoot (or the closest alternative). But why is this and what do they hope to gain from doing it?
Why Run Barefoot?
People have been running barefoot for as long as they have been present on this earth. Many tribes in Africa and South America in particular, have continued to do this. Others wear very minimally supportive footwear such as moccasins or sandals. Interestingly, these populations do not suffer from the slew of running-related injuries that are often blamed on ‘the wrong trainers’ or ‘worn-out trainers’ in western society.
Nike developed the first modern running shoe, the Cortez, back in the early 70’s. Before that, runners wore very thin, racing flats. Nike’s idea behind developing the Cortez was that running with a thicker, cushioned sole and the heel raised up would stop the foot from tiring and propel the athlete forwards. The huge popularity of the Cortez spawned the modern running shoe industry we have today. This is a $20 billion industry where companies such as Nike, Adidas, Asics, Saucony and New Balance to name only a few, compete to produce the ideal running shoe for each ‘type’ of runner (i.e. overpronators, oversupinators and neutral runners). They all claim to use the latest technology to produce shoes which will improve performance and comfort as well as decrease injury rates. So, with all of this money, research, and technology, surely the rate of running injuries is decreasing? Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Last year, in a paper in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Dr. Craig Richards revealed there are no evidence-based studies that demonstrate running shoes make you less prone to injury.
Similarly, Dr. Daniel Liebermann, professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University, who has been studying the increase in running injuries, claims that many modern running shoes, in fact, make our feet weaker and this contributes to the development of many common running injuries such as shin splints and plantar fasciitis.
Is Running Barefoot Actually Better for us?
The barefoot devotee's claim that running barefoot is more economical and improves technique and performance, thus allowing us to run faster, and most importantly, avoid injuries! These are big claims that were until recently, largely unsubstantiated.
Liebermann and his group of researchers have investigated the 'Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners'. Their findings demonstrate that those who run barefoot, use more of a mid-foot, or fore-foot strike. 75% of runners who wear modern running shoes demonstrate a prominent heel strike. It is this heel strike which is thought to contribute to increased injury risks due to the massive shock put through the heel with each step. Those runners who run barefoot, have a lighter, more springy step. Forefoot strikers have far more range of motion in the foot, their feet flex, spread, splay and grip the surface, reducing the amount of pronation and more evenly distributing pressure.
In theory, this all sounds great. However, people tempted to convert to barefoot running should be cautious and introduce it into their routine very gradually. Running barefoot uses different muscles to running in trainers. The calf and foot muscles must work harder and so as with any exercise, a slow build up should be used to avoid injuries.
Choosing running shoes
Running shoes are, without a doubt, the most important piece of equipment a runner will ever purchase. We take a look at the different types of shoes available.
Their most obvious function is in protecting the foot, however getting the right shoes will also help to prevent injuries, improve comfort and possibility even enhance performance!
Not all Running Shoes are the Same
The right shoes for one person, will more than likely not be the right shoes for someone else! There are many different shoe manufacturers out there, with many different models. How do you know which one is right for you? Well, the most important thing is to know what kind of runner you are and what foot type you have.
When it comes to buying running shoes, you will no doubt hear the words pronation and supination. These are natural movements of the foot, which everyone does to some extent when they run and walk. The problem comes when the foot over-pronates, or over-supinates (sometimes known as under-pronates).
Pronation is where the arch of the foot flattens and the foot rolls inwards as you walk or run. Over-pronation means that too much of this motion occurs. Excessive pronation also causes an excessive inward rotation of the lower leg, knee, and even upper leg, possibly causing overuse injuries such as Achilles tendinopathies, plantar fasciitis and shin splints.
Supination is the opposite movement to pronation, causing the arch to rise and foot to roll outwards. Over-supination can also cause injuries, mostly because this causes the foot to be very rigid and so lacking in shock absorbing capabilities.
When in the market for running shoes, especially your first pair, you need to determine what happens at your feet when you run. There are many ways of doing this, but the best bet is to have a gait analysis. This involves a trained individual observing your feet and how you move, sometimes filming it so they can slow it right down!
So, now you know what foot type you have, but where does this come in when buying your running shoes? Well, different shoes are available to meet the requirements of different runners.
Types of Running Shoes
Motion Control Shoes
Motion control shoes are designed for people who overpronate. They are heavier and have a rigid arch support to help decrease movement of the foot.
Cushioned running shoes are designed for the runner with a neutral foot. This means they do not excessively pronate or supinate. These shoes provide a mix of arch support and cushioning.
Stability running shoes are designed for people who oversupinate, as they provide the extra cushioning and shock absorbing that this particularly rigid foot requires.
Of course, there are other things to consider when buying a running shoe. Width, fit and comfort are probably the most important. The general advice is to buy a pair of shoes half a size larger than your normal shoe size to allow the foot to move. However, this will vary slightly as sizes are different from one manufacturer to another.
Similarly, some manufacturers produce wider shoes than others and so if you know you have a wide foot, make sure you have enough room. Try lots of different brands and choose the best fit. Often, when you have found the right shoe for you, you will stick with this brand in the future!
Gait is the way in which we move our whole body from one point to another. Most often, this is done by walking, although we may also run, skip, hop etc. Gait analysis is a method used to assess the way we walk or run to highlight biomechanical abnormalities.
What are Biomechanical Abnormalities?
Being able to move efficiently is important in avoiding injuries. Having joints capable of providing sufficient movement and muscles capable of producing sufficient force is vital to generate an efficient gait cycle. If joints are stiff (usually caused by muscle tightness), limiting the range of motion, or muscles are weak, the body must find ways of compensating for the problem, leading to biomechanical abnormalities.
Examples of biomechanical abnormalities include:
- Increased Q angle
- Hip hiking (or hitching) - lifting the hip on one side
- Ankle equinus - limited ankle dorsiflexion
- Pelvic tilt - can be either anterior, posterior or lateral
Biomechanical problems such as these are usually caused by muscular imbalances (tight muscles working against weak muscles), although they can sometimes be caused by structural problems, such as leg length discrepancies resulting in hip hiking.
What is Gait Analysis?
Gait analysis is usually performed by a professional, such as a podiatrist or physiotherapist, although it is now becoming more widespread and readily available with many specialists running and sports shops now gaining the equipment and staff who are trained in gait analysis.
Gait analysis usually involves walking or running on a treadmill. In some cases the professional will simply watch the way that you move, looking in particular at your feet, ankles, knees, and hips. In more specialist settings, a video recorder will often be set-up behind the treadmill, which will record film of your gait cycle. This can then be relayed to a laptop where slow motion and freeze frames can be used to carefully assess your running or walking style. This form of gait analysis usually focuses on the feet and ankles. Watch our video on treadmill gait analysis here.
Many injuries are often caused, at least in part, by poor biomechanics. Runners and athletes whose sports require a high level of running and jumping should make sure they have had a gait analysis and buy the correct footwear to avoid future overuse injuries. The following are a list of common overuse injuries associated with poor gait biomechanics:
- Shin splints
- Plantar fasciitis
- Iliotibial band syndrome (runners knee)
- Patella tendonitis (jumpers knee)
- Patellofemoral knee pain
- Achilles tendonitis
- Lower back pain
One way that you can get an idea for yourself whether you pronate, supinate or have a neutral foot strike is to look at the wear of your trainers or shoes. These must be shoes which you have worn a lot so that there is a pattern of wear on the sole. Watch our video on assessing trainer wear here.
The Gait Cycle in Walking and Running
The gait cycle is the continuous repetitive pattern of walking or running. The gait cycle is split into two main phases, stance, and swing, with one complete gait cycle including both a stance and swing phase.
The stance phase is the period where the foot is in contact with the ground and equates to 60% of the cycle when walking. The swing phases make up the remaining 40%. During walking there is a period called double stance, where both feet are in contact with the ground. The swing and stance phases can be further divided into:
- Heel strike - The point when the heel hits the floor
- Foot flat - The point where the whole of the foot comes into contact with the floor
- Mid stance - Where we are transferring weight from the back to the front of our feet
- Toe off - Pushing off with the toes to propel us forwards
- Acceleration - The period from toe off to maximum knee flexion in order for the foot to clear the ground
- Mid-swing - The period between maximum knee flexion and the forward movement of the tibia (shin bone) to a vertical position
- Deceleration - The end of the swing phase before heel strike
When running, a higher proportion of the cycle is swing phase as the foot is in contact with the ground for a shorter period. Because of this there is now no double stance phase, and instead, there is a point where neither feet are in contact with the ground, this is called the flight phase. As running speed increases, stance phase becomes shorter and shorter.
Corrections to your Gait Cycle
If it is found that there is an abnormality in your gait cycle. This can usually be correct with a change in footwear, the use of orthotics or an exercise programme.
Running shoes usually cater to those who either overpronate, oversupinate or have a neutral position. It is important to make sure you have the right running shoes for your style of running.
Knee Pain and Running
Knee pain is probably the most common injury complaint amongst runners. This isn't surprising as forces of up to 550% of body weight pass through the joint when running!
Injuries to the knee in runners tend to be overuse (chronic) injuries which gradually develop over a period of time, due to the repetitive motion and impact of the running cycle. In many cases, knee pain develops due to either biomechanical issues (such as overpronation or oversupination) or training errors (such as running too much too soon, or a sudden increase in hill work etc). These usually contribute to overloading one particular structure, or the development of muscle imbalances which affect joint functioning.
Luckily, these problems can be corrected, and many of them easily so. The use of different running shoes, or insoles in the shoes, as well as attention to the training programme and correction of any overloading issues, are simple fixes for some forms of knee pain.
More complex or longstanding issues may require a thorough rehabilitation programme to correct muscle imbalance problems and often treatment from a sports injury professional in the form of massage therapy, electrotherapy (i.e. ultrasound or laser) and other soft tissue techniques are very effective.
Common Running Knee Injuries
The following are injuries which are commonly reported in runners:
IT Band Syndrome
Iliotibial Band Syndrome is very common in runners, hence it's another name - Runners Knee! Although it is also a common cause of cycling knee pain. It is caused by the IT band (a thick band of fascia which runs down the outside of the thigh), rubbing over the lateral epicondyle (bony part on the outer knee). This repetitive friction causes pain and inflammation.
For more information, visit our IT Band Syndrome page.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a condition caused by mal-tracking of the kneecap and often referred to as anterior knee pain. The maltracking usually results in the kneecap moving too far laterally, causing pain and potential damage to the cartilage at the back of the kneecap as it rubs on the bone underneath, this is known as Chondromalacia Patellae. Pain when running downhill or after running are very common symptoms of this injury.
For more information, visit our Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome page.
The Popliteus is a muscle at the back of the knee joint which is important in straightening the knee. This muscle can become overworked in runners, especially when the hamstring muscles are also tight.
For more information, visit our Popliteus Injury page
Jumper's knee is more correctly known as Patella Tendinopathy (or tendonitis). It is a condition causing pain and inflammation of the patella tendon which attaches the kneecap to the shin bone.
For more information, visit our Jumper's Knee (Patella Tendonitis) page.
The hamstring tendons at the back of the knee can become inflamed due to overuse, especially when lots of acceleration or deceleration are involved. Sprint training and intervals may contribute to this injury.
For more information, visit our Hamstring Tendinopathy page.
Treating Running Knee Pain
Knee injuries which occur from running are, as already discussed, usually overuse injuries. The causes of these are often biomechanical or down to poor training or equipment (running shoes). So, the most important thing to consider when treating any running knee injuries is what may have caused it and how this can be corrected.
Poor training techniques are the most easily corrected errors. The common pitfalls to watch out for include:
- Training too much too soon for beginners (maximum increase of 10% a week).
- A sudden increase in training distance or intensity inexperienced runners.
- Introduction of new elements such as hill or sprint sessions.
- Running on cambered roads (where one foot is lower than the other).
- Lack of flexibility work or focus on training one muscle group only (i.e. quads over hamstrings).
The next important thing to look at is your biomechanics, which means the way you run. The best way of doing this is by visiting a professional who can perform a gait analysis. This usually involves running on a treadmill whilst being filmed. This footage can then be slowed down to highlight any problems at the feet in particular, but also the knee and hip as well. Common problems include overpronation, oversupination and the knee falling in due to weak buttock muscles. This will help to determine if you are wearing the right running shoes and may also highlight any muscle imbalance problems. Any muscle imbalance problems can be corrected using a rehabilitation programme to strengthen weak muscles and stretch tight ones.
Knee Pain After Running
In some cases, knee pain may not appear until after the run, sometimes soon after and in a few cases, not until the next day. This kind of knee pain is most commonly reported to occur after a rest period, for example sitting down after the run - when the runner then stands up and moves about the knee is painful. It is also common on walking downhill and stairs after running.
Knee pain after running is most commonly associated with patellofemoral knee pain. This is where the kneecap moves too far laterally (usually - although this can be a problem with rotation or tilting of the kneecap too). Pain may not appear until after the run due to the build-up of inflammation and also the tightness of the associated muscles once they cool down. The lateral quad muscles are usually linked with this condition and may tighten up after a run, resulting in a further lateral pull on the kneecap.
Solutions for knee pain which occurs after running include:
- Conducting a thorough cool down.
- Stretching regularly both before and after runs.
- Using a cold pack to ease inflammation.
- Wearing a knee support to stabilise the kneecap during running.
Avoid marathon running injuries
Injuries in the last few weeks before a marathon race are frequent but can be devastating, resulting in an athlete having to pull out of the race after months of hard training. To avoid this massive disappointment so close to the end, follow our simple tips!
- Avoid overtraining
Make sure you are getting enough rest in between training sessions. This is when the body recovers and also when fitness improves! You should be resting for 1 or 2 days a week, and cross-training for a further 1-2 days to give the body variety and to reduce the stress on your joints and muscles whilst still improving your fitness!
- Keep stretching
Stretching after a run has been shown to decrease stiffness. Muscle flexibility is also improved and this is known to prevent injuries The areas which should be focused on for running include the hamstrings, calf muscles, quads, hip flexors, and glutes.
- Get a sports massage!
Sports massage helps to relax the muscles, improve flexibility, drain waste products and break down knots and adhesions in the muscles.
- Avoid sudden changes to your training
Don't suddenly increase or add in a new feature to your training, for example, hill runs. If you haven't been doing it up to this point they don't add it in at the last hurdle! Sudden changes like this can be the last straw and add new stresses on the muscles and joints, resulting in injury.
- Check your footwear!
Make sure your running shoes are not worn. Generally, the rule of thumb for running shoes is they need changing after 400 miles. This sounds like a lot, but if you consider that on average you may be running 20 miles a week (initially less, but in the later stages a lot more!), you would cover 400 miles in 20 weeks (5 months)! If you had a new pair when you started training, you should be ok, but if not, seriously consider if you need to change them. If you do, gradually introduce a new pair on shorter runs and rotate with your old pair.
- Check your diet
In the late stages of marathon training, you're burning a huge amount of calories. You need to make sure you're replacing them. But it should be with good quality, nutritious food. Complex carbohydrates such as those found in pasta and potatoes are ideal to replace the energy you've used to avoid fatigue which can contribute to injuries. Protein is required to aid muscle recovery and healing. This is best gained from white meat.
Already got a niggle?
- If you have a niggle which is causing you concern, get it checked out as soon as possible. The sooner you get the appropriate treatment, the sooner any issues can be addressed and the less damage you do by continuing to train on it.
- Remember to Taper!
Your longest training run should be around 2 weeks before the marathon. After this time you should slowly be reducing the number of miles you run and giving your body the chance to recover before the day itself. Not doing this could mean you start the race fatigued and as already mentioned, this puts you more at risk of injury.
The vast majority of people taking part in a marathon meticulously plan their pre-marathon training, and rightly so. This aims to avoid picking up injuries, illnesses and improving endurance and speed. However, very few people have a set plan for after the hard work of the marathon is completed.
In this period, the immune system is depressed and so illnesses are easier to pick up, the bodies muscles and other soft tissues are fatigued making injuries more likely. Other post-race problems include dehydration, heat injury, blisters, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and post-marathon blues.
In order to avoid these common pitfalls, try following these guidelines:
Don’t sit down; try to walk around as much as possible. This will help to prevent the muscles from seizing up and blood pooling in the limbs. Many people recommend walking at least a mile after the event has finished. Also, start to drink a carbohydrate and electrolyte-rich sports drink as soon as possible after the race to start to replenish the body’s carbohydrate and salt stores and avoid dehydration. This is important regardless of the weather. You may also wish to eat a snack such as a cereal bar or banana within 30 minutes of finishing.
Make sure that you consume a meal which is rich in Carbohydrates within 2 hours of finishing the race. Continue to snack throughout the day and eat whenever and whatever you feel you need! Avoid drinking tea, coffee or fizzy drinks as these are diuretics and cause the body to lose fluid.
Resist the urge to get into a nice warm bath when you return home as this will not help any inflamed tissues and will result in increased muscle stiffness and soreness. A cool bath is much better. Try to avoid sitting still for extended periods, move about as much as possible and try to perform gentle stretches regularly.
The Recovery Phase
The recovery phase lasts from 24 hours post-race until you are completely free of any aching/soreness or injury. The time frame for this varies considerably from person to person. For some people, it may be 3 days. For others, up to 2 weeks.
The aim of this phase is to allow your body to completely recover, whilst refocusing your mind on how the race went, what you would do differently and what your next goal is. This is important to maintain motivation and prevent the ‘post-marathon blues’.
Continue to re-hydrate yourself by drinking at least 2 litres of fluid throughout the day, until your urine is pale in colour. Eat a healthy balanced diet, with plenty of carbohydrates so the body can replenish your energy stores, as well as protein, for muscle recovery. You will probably find you will eat more than usual in the few days following the marathon. You may also require more sleep than usual. Listen to your body to avoid illness.
In terms of exercise, maintain the stretching you started immediately post-race and when you feel ready, add in some gentle walking.
Sports massage is very useful in the days and weeks following a marathon, to help with loosening the muscles, decreasing DOMS, dispersing waste products and treating any niggling injuries.
The Return to Running Phase
Again the timescale for this phase will vary considerably from one person to another but is usually between 1 and 4 weeks post-race, dependent on soreness and injuries.
Start off at a very low level, constant speed for a short period. Consider it a reverse of your tapering over the last 3 weeks prior to the marathon. Gradually build up the duration and intensity of runs. Don’t introduce long runs or speed work until you are back at your full training pace over shorter distances and are completely comfortable with this.
Surviving the marathon
The marathon itself is only a small part of the overall marathon story and effort. Success in the marathon is down to hours of specific marathon training of both the physical and mental aspects that the marathon bears.
All of your work is during the months of this specific marathon training. The marathon run itself is the reward at the end of your marathon training program. The trick to completing the marathon or performing to your desired standard is to survive this specific marathon training program. To survive this marathon training means to be fully prepared, injury free, fresh, confident and to perform on the day and achieve what you set out to do.
TOP TIPS for Marathon Survival
- Plan Ahead
- Have & go for your Goal!
- Train as you mean to go on...
- Get Strong
- Consistency is Key
- Warm Up, Warm Down & Stretch
- Cross Train
- Fuel and Hydrate
- R&R (Rest & Recovery)
There are so many reasons for forward planning. Use a Training Log to keep track of your progress and to keep you on course for the goal ahead. Planning ahead will serve as a great motivator, help identify milestones and allow you to compare and contrast your performance as you train. Use the data to keep tabs on how you are faring. As well as motivating you it will assist in leaving no stone unturned in your target setting and training. Ticking off your runs as completed or cross-training sessions will inspire you and give you confidence.
Work out when you will need to replace your running shoes and when a new pair will be at their best possible condition come what the day of the marathon itself. Do you really want to risk running in running shoes that are close to the end of their effectiveness? Do you want to be using brand new running shoes for the marathon? Record when you bought your shoes and how many miles you have run in them. Have a couple of pairs in use perhaps? This seems to be a favoured option for many experienced runners.
What kit will you be wearing? Test it out to make sure that it is what you feel good in.
It is likely that the training will start way ahead of the event itself so what will the weather conditions be like for the marathon? Can you replicate these at all? Is there a possibility that conditions could vary?
Study the marathon course. Are there any aspects of the course you will need to be familiar with and train specifically for? Ultimately good planning will push you towards your marathon goal.
Have & Go for your Goal!
Let's make no bones about this; the marathon is the big one and is a great feat; not for the faint-hearted. It does not matter if you have run marathons before if you are an experienced runner generally or you are just setting out; whatever your level or pace the marathon will take some considered planning and preparation.
However, in order to set the right plans and prepare correctly, you do need to know what you want to achieve. Set yourself a goal and challenge yourself whilst remaining realistic. Think about what you want to achieve in the marathon. If you just want to get around the course then there is still a target for doing so; whether this is just to keep running or finish by a certain time. Having something to aim for like this allows you to set your training plan up to work towards.
Milestones can also be cast in place to allow you to check your performance to date. If it is a specific time span you are looking to achieve or indeed better then once again this will (with some thought of course) set the scene for the pattern of your training. Think through previous experience and put a draft plan into place with the goal in mind. What would you do differently this time? How might you change things from before? What really worked out for you; what did not and what was difficult to achieve? Where do you need to be before tapering down?. Discuss this with running club members/coaches and work out your schedule accordingly. Then go for it!
Train as you mean to go on...
The marathon is not one thing. The marathon takes on many forms. You can get around and complete a marathon and this is a major achievement for the vast majority. To get around a marathon you can set out to run the distance or a run/walk combination. You can run for a specific target time and you can, of course, race the marathon.
Whatever the marathon is to you, match your training to your goal. If you want to get around running all the way you will need to train this way or if building up as a complete newcomer to running you need to be aware that at some point walk/run combo has to be left behind. If you are running for a specific goal be sure to include a lot of goal pace running. Goal specific training will prepare you for the specific stresses of your marathon and help you avoid race day injuries. Specific goal training will also increase your confidence and help you prevent mental burn out.
- 180 strides per minute is an average marathon rate.
- This equates to 10,800 strides per hour.
- 4 hours actual running training per week towards the marathon equals 43,200 strides
- A typical marathon training programme of 20 weeks will mean a mighty effort of 864,000 strides during your marathon training!
The repetitive stress of all of these strides places great demands on your joints and muscles. Conditioned, stronger muscles provide more efficient movement, better support joints and are more resistant and therefore less prone to injury. For a better marathon performance at any level to ensure that your training programme will give you a gradual increase in strength and conditioning.
Consistency is key
Ensure that your training schedule is planned over the whole term of your time from your official starting point and works gradually over the entire period. This will allow your training to evolve at a good natural pace in line with your planned efforts.
Be consistent. Breaks in your training will mean that your fitness will fall back and the gradual training increases in mileage and intensity are a key factor if you are to realise your goals. Don’t be tempted to play catch up too quickly if returning from a break (for whatever the reason) as this can actually set you back. Seek advice and reset your training schedule to get back on track.
Be realistic and whilst you should try and keep your original goals make sure that they are not out of reach completely; especially if you have had any significant time away from the plan. Big hikes up in your distances or intensity are a common cause of injury. So; ensure that your plan works gradually over the whole schedule to allow your training to evolve at a good natural pace in line with your efforts. Build in rest and recovery runs and try to stay with the plan. Be consistent.
Warm Up, Warm Down & Stretch
Make a warm up, a warm down and a stretch part of your training regime. Set aside some time for this important feature of your marathon training. This will ensure that you are fully prepared for your training and that you recover quicker for your next session. Your performance can only improve and you will be less prone to injury if you dedicate some time to your warm-up & warm down.
Your body needs to be prepared for training just as a car engine needs to be warmed up before setting off for a drive; if suddenly pushed into action it can quite easily cough & splutter just as you can!
As much as you need to be prepared for the action you do need to slowly wind down from activity as well. The system can in effect back up when circulation racing around you suddenly then is no longer pumping. Make this part of your training log and make this practice as important as any mileage you put in or speed sessions you do.
Use recovery days to dedicate more time to stretch routines and remember quality rather than quantity. Don’t overstretch. Nice easy, unrushed stretches on main areas are better than a blast of over-stretching covering everywhere! Seek advice from fellow club members or visit a professional to gain a better understanding of stretching to build your own regime.
Set yourself a programme that will help you work towards your marathon goal. Seek assistance to build yourself a training plan to suit. Ask around the running club. Most likely that there will be a coach or an old hand who will help you devise one. Check this alongside an online resource.
Don’t make the mistake of running the same type of long slow distance running for nearly every workout. Running the same pace every day will become tedious and if nothing else will tire you mentally. Ensure you have a variety in your training schedule and mix up your workouts. Do some up-tempo training; high-intensity interval training; hill running even. Gradually build distances week on week and add in some speed sessions. Ensure that you fit in some core stability and stretching routines. Make sure that you have some low impact recovery runs after heavier workouts.
Frequently changing workouts (not forgetting that you need a plan) will keep you mentally stimulated so you can avoid burn out. Multi-paced training will also help you to increase your fitness and overall running performance. Look at mixing up your training routes and add in some hills. Hill running can provide a great, functional way to improve your strength, power and running efficiency. Look at making your running action smoother, easier and more fluid. Practice breathing and strengthening your core stability. A smooth, easy stride will conserve energy and help you to avoid running injuries.
The mantra we have all heard PMA/Positive Mental Attitude and it is true that those that run with a smile on their face and a positive outlook can affect how they perform mentally and physically to their training/running. This is especially true in endurance events and a mind over matter, the forward-thinking outlook can get you through tough times in training and marathon day itself; to achieve your goals. Happy runners run with a more fluid, relaxed stride and as before this, all adds up to overall performance enhancement and injury avoidance. Happy runners are able to run further, faster and easier than their more unhappy counterparts. So look on the positive side of your training plan and learn to love your daily run. Enjoy your running. Don’t force yourself to train.
Fuel and Hydrate
A lot of energy is used up during marathon training. To support your training you need a steady supply of high-quality complex carbohydrates, sufficient protein, and healthy fats. Marathon training is not a time to go on a diet in the sense that the word diet is associated.
Your diet should reflect the effort you are putting in and what you eat should be matched to your training needs. As with all other aspects of your marathon training what you need to take on board food-wise should be researched and you should have a general idea of what you need to be eating and when. Seek the advice of club members (again) or other runners who have completed the marathon. Start an eating/fuelling routine that serves your running/training.
You will need to be comfortable with what you eat and when you eat for the marathon day itself so the long training schedule is the time for experimentation. Doing this at the outset will allow more time to get settled with your eating early on in your programme. Log down your food intake, food types and chart these against your performance. Make changes as and when you learn more about yourself and your running. If you don't get enough nutrition, the right foods, and especially enough high-quality carbohydrates, your training workouts will suffer, your muscles will become weaker and you will increase your risk of burning out or injury. In the same vein study the rules of hydration.
R&R (Rest & Recovery)
Training for a marathon is not easy. Whilst it should be fun there is an underlying reality here of the fact that whatever your experience or goal you will be working on the limit during the marathon. Therefore your preparation is vital.
Rest days are a must during your grueling marathon training programme and are as important as the actual running itself and should never be overlooked. Recovery runs or walks should also feature as a way of winding down after a particularly intense training run or effort and this actually assists in your conditioning.
R&R (Rest and Recovery) will also assist you in avoiding injury or burn out. Entering set rest days or low-intensity recovery runs or walks into your programme via your training log will ensure that you maintain a balanced programme and some consistency when working towards your marathon. Long runs put stress on muscles and joints and they need time to recuperate; conditioning improves with R&R. Muscles build in strength during these periods.
Use rest days wisely however and schedule in a Sports Massage or some nice long easy stretching sessions, a swim or walk or perhaps even nothing but a good old break, mentally and physically!.