How do I train safely for a marathon?
August 9, 2005 8:30 AM   Subscribe

I'm training for a marathon for the first time and am afraid of injuries...

I'm somewhat athletic (usually run 3 miles a couple of times a week) to start with. I'm in the second week of an 18-week program where I do 3 short runs during the week and long runs on Saturday morning. I take 2 days off and cross-train on Sundays.

I want to be able to stay on schedule without permanently injuring myself . I'm finding that after the Saturday long runs, I'm having some supermild knee soreness (below my knee towards the shin, not below the knee cap itself) and my right foot arch hurts sometimes (although taping the foot helps). I've been icing them both a lot and that seems to be working.

Do I wait until the pain completely goes away before I run again? If so, can I do other activities to keep my fitness level up? Or do I run anyway and just rest and ice a lot in between (like we did in high school)?

I am enjoying the discipline aspect of this program (the mandatory 5 days per week) and am finding that it's working wonders for my anxiety/depression. I want very badly to stick with it but don't want to put myself completely out of the game so early on. Yet I want to be able to run this marathon in December, if possible.
posted by superkim to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There seems to be this running joke among distance runners... injured? Go out and buy some new shoes...

It all starts with the proper footware. Go to one of those running shoe stores and do a gait analysis. For me, that actually made the biggest difference... that, and choosing the proper place and setting to do my longer runs. Is it possible for you to train on dirt for at least part of your runs?

The other thing -- and again, this is just me here -- is that I stopped stretching. I just kinda take it easy for the first mile or so to warm up.
posted by ph00dz at 8:37 AM on August 9, 2005

I've also been training for a marathon and have been doing a regimen pretty similar to yours. After a while, I started feeling aches in my knees. I bought some knee braces (nothing fancy -- very plain ones) and haven't felt anything since. However, if the pain is below the knee, as you mention, you might be slowly developing shin splints -- which (unfortunately) require rest. They only get worse the more you run.

Bicycling might be a good temporary alternative to jogging; it's certainly less stressful on the joints and legs in general. Good luck to you!
posted by Ljubljana at 8:46 AM on August 9, 2005

if the pain is in your shin area and not related to the joint, then it's probably related to an abrupt increase in overall mileage. Back off the weekly mileage a bit (10%) and if it goes away then you can increase it 10% again. But as mentioned, getting rid of shin splints requires can probably still get away with walking as your "rest" as well as other cross-training, and I'd recommend that.
posted by thewiseacre at 9:15 AM on August 9, 2005

Galloway's program is designed to minimize the chance of injury. It focuses on recovery (3 runs a week, 1 of which is long; cross training another 3 days; one day of rest). Some people find the run-walk part somewhat "wimpy," but I've seen some fast runners (e.g., 6 minute miles) doing the run-walk. If you're in a big city, there may be a marathon training group that uses Galloway. In Los Angeles, its LA Leggers.
posted by GarageWine at 9:23 AM on August 9, 2005

one rule of thumb to keep in mind: never increase overall weekly distance by more than 10%
posted by seawallrunner at 9:32 AM on August 9, 2005

Response by poster: It's definitely not shin splints, I had them a couple of months ago and am now ok. I think the knee pain is more the tendon that connects the patella and tibia?

I got new shoes last week after having my style analyzed at the running store. I underpronate but have flat arches.

Thanks for the responses so far, btw.
posted by superkim at 9:43 AM on August 9, 2005


Disclaimer: I am not a doctor - the best thing for you to do is to see a doctor.

That said, it sounds like the knee problem is a bit of patellar tendonitis. Like the others have said knee injuries of this sort are usually due to doing to much, too fast, too soon. Back off on the running for a week or so to see how the knee feels after that - if it feels okay then slowly and gradually increase the distance and monitor the knee as you go. If you are still having trouble you will need to lay off the impact exercises for awhile - switch to swimming and cycling to keep your fitness up.

Perhaps we can give you a more specific answer if you tell us the exact mileage you are doing, the exact speed, and the terrain/course (if you are doing hills the first week into a marathon training program and your body is not accustomed to this there will be injuries).

For your second issue it sounds like plantar fasciitis. This is another tendon/ligament problem - essentially there is a band of soft tissue connecting the ball of your foot to the heel of the foot. If this gets inflammed then you will experience pain at the beginning of your runs (for me it usually doesn't hurt once my foot is 'warmed up') - I also tend to feel it in the mornings when I wake up because the foot has been constricting all night long. Icing it is very good but I'd recommend NSAIDS (over-the-counter anti-inflammatories) as well. Also, you can get heel inserts for your running shoes and you can wear a nightsock (sometimes referred to as a Strassburg sock) to stretch the fascia of the foot during nighttime. The Strassburg Sock

Hope that helps!
posted by rlef98 at 11:00 AM on August 9, 2005

I'm going to try the marathon this year, after failing to finish a few years ago due to injuries sustained while training. For me it was the IT band.

We use a system similar to Galloway's in our local marathon training regimen, and similar to what you're doing. The key to the off days is doing low- to no-impact training, particularly if you're already feeling strain/injury in some areas. I also drop out of the longer runs (>13 mi.), as the training progresses, since that's what did me in the first time

I only do a very light stretch before the run, but if I don't stretch well afterwards I pay the price. Never lock the joints when stretching, or at any other time for that matter.

You might also want to look into excercises that strengthen the muscles around the knee. If you're really worried about it, find a good Sports Medicine doctor in your area, and have him prescribe an excercise regimen to help keep your knees strong.

Your smart to be thinking about this now. It's much easier to prevent an injury --much harder to recover from one.
posted by zueod at 11:18 AM on August 9, 2005

When training for long distances (many years ago), I found that a couple of light resistance training sessions a week (just leg extensions and curls) would keep knee soreness at bay. But I would urge you to consult a physiotherapist before doing much of anything except backing off your training load. Zueod is right, prevention's much better than cure, so it's worth getting it right at this early stage.
posted by sennoma at 11:28 AM on August 9, 2005

Response by poster: I'm currently running at a pace of 10-12 minutes per mile on the sidewalk. I live in Florida so it's pretty flat except for when I run over the drawbridges.

I'm about to enter week 3 which means 3 miles Tues (today), 4 miles Wed, 3 miles on Thurs, 8 miles on Saturday. Last week I did 16 miles total.
posted by superkim at 11:57 AM on August 9, 2005

I have ran 30-50 miles every week for 30 +/- years (including some triathalons and 1/2 marathons) and have never had to take off due to injury--my advice--when it hurts take it easy but you do not need to stop--and--alternate shoes on a regular basis--do not consistently run in the same pair--I have used Nike Pegasus exclusively but I rotate daily/weekly/whatever between pairs with different mileage/use--also--I use "Shoe Goo" to repair worn spots--Throw in biking for cross training and to strengthen the quads--Good running
posted by rmhsinc at 1:49 PM on August 9, 2005

I'm also in marathon training. For what you describe, you could:

- do some stat bike work to cross-train and build complementary muscles -- easier on the knees as well
- do some jogging on the spot on a small trampoline if available
- ensure that you do 6 days of running per week, composed of 5 shorter runs, increasingly gradually, and one long run before the rest day. also, you can do the run-10-rest-1 formula, or 20-2 if you prefer.

That last is just good training advice -- the rest intervals are not necessary but I would include them since you are experiencing some pain.

DO ensure that your shoes are good, consider alternating two pair, and a gait analysis wouldn't be a bad thing. Orthodics can be hell to start with but can correct many longer-term problems just starting to show.
posted by dreamsign at 9:09 PM on August 9, 2005

« Older US v. European salaries   |   fetch me a hamburger, caddy! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.