When you’re training for a half marathon, it can be difficult to admit you have an injury. Here’s how to assess what to do next.
No runner wants an injury, especially if there’s a half marathon on the calendar. It can be tempting to just ignore aches and pains, training through them, and hoping they’ll go away.
And sometimes they do! But, often, they don’t – they just get worse, and might even stop you running at all.
How do you know whether that pain is a fleeting problem which will go away by itself, or whether you should get help from your GP or sports therapist?
Is it getting worse?
If the ache or pain isn’t getting better, you need to see your GP or sports injury person. Don’t expect the pain to get better magically – you will need to rest, reduce your mileage, rethink hills or hard surfaces, and replace worn-out shoes. But if you do all that and it still isn’t getting better, then don’t delay in making an appointment.
Trust your instincts.
Most runners know deep down whether they need to go and get expert help with a sports injury. If in doubt, make an appointment. Any good professional will soon send you home with some extra stretches if you’re just being over cautious! But if you’re right, and you do need help, it’s best to act sooner rather than wait.
The 5 most common running injuries
Where: in the front or outside of your shins
When: when you run, but sometimes even when you press the painful area
What: shin splints is a catch-all term for a range of injuries, usually a result of over training or under recovering. Increasing your mileage or training intensity too quickly can result in shin splits. Or it could be due to tight calves, poor footwear, or flat feet.
What to do: rest, check your shoes, reduce your mileage, and run on softer surfaces. Compression socks might help. Go to a physio and/or sports massage therapist.
Where: you’ll feel the pain in your Achilles tendon (not the heel or the calf).
When: during your run, as a sharp jabbing pain
What: a result of weakness or imbalance in the Achilles tendon, because of poor running form, wearing high heels (not whilst you run, obviously!), weak glute muscles, or a lot of hill running.
What to do: be patient, it takes a long time to heal the Achilles as it is a large tendon with poor blood flow. Reduce hill work, see a physio for massage and exercises.
Where: on the bottom of your foot
When: usually when you’ve been inactive for a while, like first thing in the morning
What: damage to the thick plantar fascia which runs the length of your sole. Can be caused by tight calves, over pronation or supination, or weak hip muscles.
What to do: rest, stretch your calves, and visit a physio for foot strengthening exercises.
Where: the outside of your upper leg
When: any time!
What: Iliotibial Band Syndrome is not actually damage to the IT band itself, but is the pain you feel when the IT band does its job very enthusiastically, to compensate for weak glutes or a tilted pelvis.
What to do: ask a physio for exercises to strengthen your glutes and hips, and so stretches at home for your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Where: under your kneecap
When: usually when you run, although can end up hurting all the time
What: “Runners knee” is due to chronic stimulation of the nerves in your knee areas, and can happen because of tissue degradation, weak surrounding muscles, an imbalance, or over-use.
What to do: reduce your volume, and get physio advice about strength work.