Marathon Recap Article 2 – Surviving Training Injuries

This article is the second of six detailing my personal experiences from Week One of Training to finishing the 26.2 miles of the 2013 ING NYC Marathon. For the introductory posting, please click here.

Putting One Foot in Front of the Other
In the first few weeks of training, there’s a lot of running through pain trying to keep up with three consecutive mid week runs, but after a while your body just adapts. I also picked up a Marathon Stick to roll out sore muscles nightly. Its a flexible hand held bar with rollers that can be used to break up “knots” of built up lactic acid. Like most recovery methods, it hurts like Hell but helps greatly in recovery.
For the long runs, I also aimed for early mornings, even on Saturday, and with my home base of Hoboken I was able to find some pretty amazing running paths. Some key factors I considered when planning all of these routes was scenery, access to water fountains, and Porta Potties…please take heed that an unfortunate truth of distance training is that running makes things happen in your body and it’s not fun to be in the middle of big run when your body tells you it’s go time…On the Jersey side there are about 10 miles of trail via the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway, endless paths overlooking the Statue of Liberty in Liberty State Park, and the high cliffs along Boulevard East in Weehawken, giving a fantastic view of Manhattan. In New York, I did lot of long runs in Central Park, with its hilly 6 mile loop, and along the Manhattan Waterfront Greenwaythat stretches pretty much uninhibited for at least 15 miles from north of the George Washington Bridge all the way around Battery Park and up the East River side to Tudor City. It really takes your mind off the challenge of running 20 miles when you’re surrounded by incredible architecture, New York Harbor, and hundreds of like-minded runners, walkers, and cyclists. Though I often complain about the challenge of getting anywhere in the NYC area, there is a certain “I don’t know what” that gives the city an incredible energy you feed off when you’re there.
Injury Prevention and Treatment
In my opinion the most important thing in marathon training is to avoid injury, especially for the first time marathoner. This is not an easy task when you’re trying to run somewhere around 450 miles in 18 weeks and when each long run is the long-est run you’ve ever done. Each Saturday morning becomes a daunting hurdle that you have to overcome but conversely, each Saturday afternoon provides a reason to celebrate your newest mark on the running wall. Mr. Hal Higdonprescribes that most runs should be completed at a conversational pace, 30-90 seconds slower than your race pace goal. This is a challenge just to keep a consistent speed, but once you get in the groove, it becomes natural. The idea is to avoid injury by not pushing too hard and getting to know the normal aches and pains of running versus what you feel when something is not working right. Besides running slowly over longer time frames will still get your body used to the efficient use of glycogen for fuel.

I personally was fairly lucky throughout the first three quarters of my training, avoiding any major injury aside from some minor hip and foot pains that I could have definitely prevented. In the early part of my training I was still playing softball and managed to do a Tough Mudder on Mt Snow in Vermont. What I realized was that sideways or jerky motions like trying to stop a ground ball, or pretty much any of the Tough Mudder obstacles, make for challenging running. The first time I ran 14 miles in my life ended up being a mind over matter effort with my wounds from both the Mudder and our softball playoffs still un-healed and my hips barking from the start…I shut all non-running activities down that day and had a breeze of a time with my first 15 miler the following week.

The second minor injury was to the my left forefoot after running a few loops of Central Park. I hadn’t considered it at the time but in hindsight, and after noticing the pain, I realized that I had run 18 miles clockwise on a continuous cant that albeit slight, managed to put extra strain on my left foot. I was able to treat this with a couple days off and ice every night (ice is huge for healing) and what I took away from this error was to pay attention to the angle of the path and to mix up the side of the road on long runs. Next time I ran the Park, I did a sort of clockwise/counterclockwise out-and-back that left my left foot good to go.

As I mentioned, I was lucky for most of my training…but didn’t make it the entire 18 weeks unscathed. I broke a cardinal sin of training in trying to push a pair of shoes too far and paid for it with a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that popped up the week before I was supposed to do my big 20 miler. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the fascia, which are the tendons that run along the bottom of your feet. They wrap under the heel and connect with the calves via the achilles. Often they get inflamed from running in worn out shoes, over-pronation from having flat feet, hill running, running on hard surfaces…I pretty much checked all those boxes while trying to get one more run out of my Brooks. Horrible idea.

While I hemmed and hawed about how to treat the pain, my lovely wife, who I have to admit, is almost always right, convinced me to get to a physical therapist asap. So I made an appointment at Mile Square Physical Therapy in Hoboken and started treatments. For the next three weeks Cesar, Malia, Enrique, and Jessica took turns laying into the bottom of my foot to break up the tissue and guiding me through therapy. Aside from the “delightful” deep tissue massage, I also used heat, ice, electrical muscle stimulation, rolling of the calves, a whole lot of stretching, and my favorite exercise which involved putting my weight on a golf ball under my foot for three minutes of excruciating fun. It wasn’t pretty but when it was time to run 26.2 miles, I had no foot pain whatsoever and I am very grateful for the ordeal those guys put me through.

Next Article: Marathon Weekend

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