No matter how you might characterize yourself in terms of your running ability or aspirations (marathon runner, casual, triathlete, etc.) you are at risk of running injuries if you are reading this article. The reason is that all runners who choose to run with a specific (albeit sometimes vague) goal in mind, never, ever, lack sufficient motivation to train.
Distance runners, as a breed, are different from other people. They get up and run when it is dark. They exercise when it is hot. They exercise when it is cold. And they usually do it all with a single goal in mind. That goal could be to run one's first 5K. It could be to finish a marathon. It could even be to qualify for Boston. The one common thread these goals share is that they simply cannot be achieved without sufficient initiative and dedication.
If one happened to be strong as an ox, but half as smart, it is possible that the senseless runner might show up on the starting line and actually finish one of the aforementioned events, without sufficient training. This however, would probably result in some level of injury. It would certainly be a recipe for an unenjoyable, if not painful, event. So that is where this short series of articles comes in. As a podiatrist, foot and ankle surgeon, runner and triathlete, I will (hopefully) steer you in the right direction…away from injury and toward a memorable day with a great race, and an accomplished goal.
In this series of articles, we will discuss specific common injuries and the means to avoid them. We will discuss training, shoes, common mishaps and mistakes, all in order to allow you, the running neophyte, marathon hopeful, or seasoned runner to avoid injury.
So, given that you are now likely already a couple of weeks into the your Marathon or ½ Marathon training program (…you are following a program right?) we should talk basics. Simply put, you should have a goal and a means to get there. That means you have a sensible, reasonable training plan or schedule to keep you on track. Lucky there are many sources which have already done this for you. Now all you have to do is stick to it! The point I want to make is that as a highly motivated athlete (and you are, if you are reading this) you are at serious risk of overtraining.
You do not get stronger, faster, better by running yourself into the ground. Your body actually suffers tissue damage on your long runs, speed sessions, etc. You get stronger when you recover. The process of rebuilding those tissues is what leads to stronger muscles, increased biomechanical efficiency and improvement. This happens after, not during, those runs. Granted you need to put in the miles, but fight the temptation to squeeze in a few extra miles on your scheduled rest days. It will not help. Rest or cross-train as instructed in your training program! The folks with the CTC who devised the marathon and ½ marathon schedules will not lead you off course. Trust them, listen to them, and you will feel strong on race day.
I wanted to share a quote I heard long ago about marathons. "When it comes to a marathon, no one can do it for you. That medal is earned with black toenails and long runs in the dark." If you have experienced the black toenails, you have already suffered a preventable injury. I've done it myself, so don't feel bad. Next week we will talk about shoes…your first line of defense against injury.
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