You can hear the tap-tap… tap-tap of footsteps around you; see the bright colours flowing over the pavement like a rainbow river; and feel the adrenaline rush as you see “FINISH” come into view. These are some of the great sensations we experience when running a marathon.
It is coming to that time of the year, with the Sydney Marathon fast approaching in September 2023. This is one of the biggest marathons in Sydney, and if you have signed up for it, you have probably already started training.
As physiotherapists, many of our clients love to run. We love it when they share their successes – a photo of them at the finish line, their medal from the race, or even just their beaming smiles as they tell us about race day. However, we also see the flip side – the aches, the pains, and sometimes those heart-wrenching injuries that we hope we don’t have to see. Many of these injuries occur in the months leading up to these large running events… But why are they happening and what can we do about them?
The running injuries that we see range from achey knees and muscle ‘strains’, to torn muscles and stress fractures. Here are some of the potential causes of a running injury.
Three of the most common causes of running injuries include overtraining, poor flexibility, and poor strength. Let me run you through these!
You finally decide you are going to run a marathon. You are motivated and ready to put in the effort. You normally run 5km once a week, so you do some maths and realise that a marathon (42km) is 14x this. You decide to start running 10km, three times a week, for two weeks, before moving up to 20km runs, five times a week the next fortnight, and 30km the next …
Although you are building up your running volume, you may be doing it too quickly. Think about it like this: if you are used to cooking for a family of 5, then suddenly you are told to prepare a dinner party for 20, you will be unprepared and overwhelmed. When it comes to running, increase only ONE factor at a time (either distance, frequency, or speed). If you try to increase too many things at a time, your body doesn’t have time to respond, prepare and strengthen itself fast enough, leading to potential injuries such as tendinopathies or stress fractures.
When you run, your muscles are constantly pumping – tightening, stretching, tightening, stretching. If your muscles are not flexible enough, you are more prone to muscle strains or tears. Working on flexibility helps to prevent injury, improve the ability of your muscles to work, and ultimately improves your performance, giving you that extra boost in your running time.
This is commonly overlooked when it comes to running. People focus on cardio, and cardio only. But when you think about it, what is driving you forwards when you are running? Your muscles. With every step, the muscles in your calves, thighs, bottom and back need to work. If you have strength imbalances, it can place greater stress on certain muscles or joints, leading to pain and injury.
If you are training for a marathon and starting to feel a bit of pain, or you are concerned about your training program and whether it is safe or appropriate, book an appointment to see our physios! We can help you appropriately pace your training to prevent you from hitting that training wall. We can help you build your flexibility and strength to reduce your risk of injury and increase your performance. We can help you prepare for race day, doing our best, so you can do your best as you cross the finish line with a smile of your face.