Emma Cranfield, Senior Physiotherapist at Fitzwilliam Hospital, Peterborough and international triathlete,
Although thoroughly rewarding, running a half marathon is no easy feat. The body deserves respect for putting itself under intense stress as we pound the streets of Peterborough for a heart-thumping 13 miles, and avoiding injury in the months of training ahead is critical to a successful day.
Whether you are looking for a personal best or trying to complete the distance for the first time, you can guarantee that your training will change over time. You might increase your mileage, run on different terrain or introduce speed work. And it’s when we start challenging our bodies in new ways that the risk of injury increases.
This is why it is very important to make gradual changes to your training.
Mileage – the general rule is to increase no more than 10% each week. Many injuries occur when the body is forced to go further and faster than it has prepared for.
Terrain – try to change gradually – running on short grass or woodland trails can be kinder on the joints than running on the pavement.
Rest – when we train we load our tissues creating microtrauma, it is only with rest that our tissue repairs to make our muscles stronger.
Dealing with Injury
These are some of the most common injuries that people face when preparing for a half marathon:
1. Runners knee – or Iliotibial band syndrome
This causes pain on the outer aspect of the knee. As the band gets tighter, it slides against the femur to create local inflammation. The problem usually occurs when you increase mileage, run on cambered roads or suffer from excessive pronation at the foot. The best treatment is to stretch and ice the local inflammation. Sports massage or acupuncture can also be of benefit to the tight structure. If the problem persists, orthotics fitted into the shoes can help to prevent this injury.
2. Shin splints – Medial tibial stress syndrome
This causes tenderness on the inside of the shin, where structures become tight and pull on the insertion to the bone. It’s usually brought on by increased training or change of terrain or footwear. You can solve it by stretching the calf and anterior shin muscles, resting to let the muscle recover and applying ice to reduce inflammation. If symptoms continue, see a chartered physiotherapist or your GP as it could be a stress fracture and may need an x-ray.
3. Achilles tendonitis
This injury can occur in both novice and experienced athletes. It’s usually triggered by running on new surfaces, increasing distance, changing footwear or introducing hill intervals. It will present as pain and swelling locally in the Achilles and pushing up onto the toes is often symptomatic. Rest and ice this injury as it can turn chronic and take a very long time to heal.
4. Plantar fasciitis
The plantar fascia is a fibrous band in the foot. It attaches to the heel bone and extends into the toes. Fasciitis is usually brought on by tightness in the calf, poor footwear and ankle flexibility. Symptoms are often worse when putting the foot to the floor first thing in the morning. This is another notoriously hard injury to resolve therefore rest and ice are important and you need to address the factors that are causing the injury.
5. Sciatica or lower back pain
This can commonly be mistaken for a hamstring pull. The pain will be variable, it may be worse on sitting down, and it can be felt into the leg but not necessarily at the lower back. Seeking assessment from a good chartered physiotherapist will help to differentiate between a hamstring and a lower back problem.
The Physiotherapy and Podiatry team at Fitzwilliam hospital offer a Runner’s clinic in support of the Great Eastern Run. Staff will be at the finish area at the Great Eastern Run on the 9th October offering assessment, treatment and advice to all runners.
Come along and have a chat after the run or if you’d like to arrange a consultation before the run call us on 01733 842319.