Dealing with a late stage injury before the marathon
Running injuries in the later stages of marathon training are unfortunately all too common. The intensity of marathon training places a lot of stress and strain on the body, especially as the long miles build up towards the end. This will seem like the worst possible time to get an injury and having sustained a late-stage injury myself in the past, I can attest to how scary this is! Shattered dreams, dashed hopes and letting down friends, family and sponsors all loom large in the mind! Yet the good news is that a late-stage injury does not necessarily have to be a showstopper and with a sensible approach you may still make it to the finish line.
Firstly, if you are unlucky enough to get injured close to the race DON'T PANIC. Stop your training for now and take some time off to allow the pain to settle and consider what may have led to your injury. Have you been overtraining to catch up? Is it an old injury that has come back? Are you starting with a new pair of running shoes? Identifying the cause can help you to address the issue, putting measures in place to speed your recovery.
Use ice packs and over the counter anti-inflammatory medication if the area is particularly painful but do not overuse them as this can delay healing. Heat packs are better as they increase blood flow to the injury and promote healing. Gently mobilise and stretch the affected area in a pain free range. A sports massage may help but avoid deep tissue massage as that may aggravate an inflamed area. Low impact cross training such as swimming, walking and cycling can be beneficial to maintain your aerobic fitness if you cannot run.
Do I have to stop running?
The next thing is to establish what aggravates the injury. You may find that running a certain distance is fine, in which case set that as your new baseline and increase gradually. Remember that some injuries, such as tendon injuries are more likely to hurt after a run rather than during, so monitor your symptoms over a 24-hour period. As a rule of thumb, if it is painful walking then you should not run, but do not worry too much about pain after exercise that is mild, say less than 3 out of 10 on a 1 to 10 scale, provided it settles quickly afterwards the same day and you can weight bear reasonably comfortably. If any kind of running irritates it too much then it is best to substitute low impact cross training such as cycling or swimming until things settle.
Consider an early taper. At this stage of your training hopefully most of your long runs should have been completed, with maybe one or two long runs to go depending on your plan. If so, you have probably done enough training to get round comfortably, although you may have to settle for a longer finish time than planned. It is better to reduce your running early, reducing stress on the injured area and allowing it to recover, rather than sticking slavishly to your training plan and risking a delay in recovery.
Reassess your goals
Reassess your goals for the marathon. If your aim is just to get round or in particular if you are fundraising, then the priority is to finish and, provided you are sensible with the above measures and allow the injury to settle, you should be fine. If however you are running the marathon to achieve a specific finishing time, then it may be time to consider deferring it until another time. A tough choice for sure but important to decide.
Get some professional help.
Finally, seeing a running injury specialist is essential to optimise your recovery and increase your chances of getting to that finish line. It is important to establish the level of injury and find out early whether it is worth continuing with your marathon bid or whether continuing could risk making your injury worse. Relying on Dr Google can lead you down too many blind alleys and time is short. Make sure you choose a therapist who understands running injuries and ideally has a running background.
How we can help
At Active we are runners ourselves and we understand what makes runners tick. As running injury specialists we can quickly diagnose your injury, putting you on a rehabilitation plan that will optimise your recovery, increase your chances of getting to the finish line and adding that important finishing medal to your trophy cabinet!