From an injury prone runner: what I have learnt….

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Foot xray showing 2nd metatarsal stress fractureIn the last year, I have run my first ultra, my first mountain marathon and my first stage race. I’ve had a great time, but I have also had some down moments. The worst part has been sustaining two stress fractures, in my left shin and foot. I have learnt a fair bit though, especially about injuries, and I thought I’d share my thoughts (mainly so that I can re-read this if I am considering running when I shouldn’t!!)

1) Trust your instincts. If something feels wrong when you’re running, it probably is.

2) Do not be stubborn about starting races if you are injured. It is always worth contacting race organisers and asking if you can defer your place or transfer it to another runner.

3) Listen to the health professionals if they tell you to take a break. I am well known for never listening. Having set myself back a fair few weeks, I am finally going to start adhering to their advice.

4) Seek a second opinion if you’re unhappy with how your are treated or what you have been told. One doctor I saw decided that I was anorexic and that malnutrition had caused the stress fracture (despite the fact that I had repeated several times that I had just run a 200 mile race and that this was much more likely to have caused the injury and the fact I was looking a little on the slim side!)

5) Be willing to experiment with your kit. I spent the entire year testing out different trainer and sock combinations, convinced I would never finish a run blister free. Finally, and thankfully a few weeks before the TAR, I found my dream combination of trail runners and socks. My trainers are so hard to find in the UK that I actually cried when they lost my luggage after the race, so worried was I that my key to blister-free heaven had been torn from me. Sad I know!
Taping my feet
6) Despite the above, I did need to tape my feet during the Transalpine. Eight days of mountain running was never going to be kind to my feet. You may be laughing at the amount of tape that I have on in this photo, but this is something I learnt from my physio Pete and I find it really works. Use good quality tape, take your time (cutting it to fit if necessary) and use plenty. There’s no point putting a tiny bit over one toe because after a few hours its almost definitely going to be floating around in your sock causing more annoyance than anything.

7) Do some resistance training! Yes specificity training is important, and yes you should run long distances if you are planning on racing long distances. However, getting some strength into your legs will make sure that when you get tired, you are able to keep your form. I used to suffer from really bad IT band pain and a lots of niggles in my knees, but I honestly believe that strengthening up the muscles around these joints has alleviated a lot of this pain.

8) Cross training – see the positives. I was frustrated when I found out that cycling 10 miles was basically the equivalent of a 5 mile run. However, I have found that doing spin classes at the gym has really helped speed up my cadence meaning that my 5km time is quicker than it was in the summer.

I guess the final point is, if you really are stuck and unable to run at all, look ahead to the following year and start planning some runs or races. Im starting to do this now and it is exciting, slightly terrifying but mainly motivating!

7 Replies to “From an injury prone runner: what I have learnt….”

  1. Hi Kelly,

    Glad to see you’ve taken the experience on board – especially point number 2. I was glad to see how happy you were with finishing TAR, but thought at the time ‘if she wants to learn the hard way, so be it’.

    Re: point 4 – I’m sorry to hear that you were treated in this way. I’ve recently taken on a Master Practicioner course in Eating Disorders, and if I’ve learned anything from that, is that the misconceptions surrounding the various conditions are prevalent throughout the medical profession. He/she probably picked up on the veganism (which is associated with AN) but certainly not basis enough to diagnose in such a manner (the diagnosis itself not necessarily even constructive if you were!).

    Hopefully you are on the mend! 🙂


    1. Hey Andy,

      Thanks for your comment. To be fair I think I knew what I was letting myself in for by finishing the TAR but what I haven’t done is let myself recover properly. Running in Mallorca a month later was a very silly idea!!
      Re the AN- the most frustrating thing about this dr is that he just didn’t seem to listen to me at all. Also, you’re right, if you were suffering from it, I’m not sure confronting someone in this way would be the most sensible way to tackle it.

      Now I just have to see if I have really learnt from all this and will take the time to recovery properly. Hope you’re well and running happily! 🙂

      1. Well I guess if you were injured anyway, at least finishing TAR offered some ‘consolation’ to the situation you were in. It’s all about the recovery. Running happily (bar a 7 week ‘rugby enforced’ respite)

  2. The x-ray of your foot is almost exactly the same as the one I had done on Tuesday, after hobbling around for a month. I injured it during the Man vs. Mountain run in Wales and put it down to bruising. It’s incredibly frustrating but I know I must be patient and allow it to heal before I start training again. It’s good to hear others advice though, and what they learnt during their recovery. That’s the aim of my (very new) blog; to share this experience with others.

    1. Really sorry to hear about your injury. On the plus side, if you can see it on the x-Ray it means it’s probably healing which is good. Definitely resist running on it, I didn’t and set myself back for months. Good luck with the recovery, I’m going to nip over to your blog now and have a read 🙂

  3. While waiting for it to fully heal, if it’s minor (pain, discomfort) at present, does one really need to wear the walking boot or crutches (in terms of you athlete’s here)? Or ok to wear normal footwear and just take caution not to use the foot much as if pretending you were using a walking boot or crutches, or at least not to run/hike/etc. with it.

    Just asking as I got a stress fracture on the foot but it’s in pretty good shape now with minimal pain/discomfort than when it first appeared, but I got prescribed a walking boot, and that sure isn’t very convenient nor comfortable. It makes sense if I had a painful & major fracture, but it’s pretty minor right now or so it feels. I’m just following Dr.’s orders for a fast/good heal, but wondering whether I can get by with just extra care & not being active, the way the foot is now as it functions normally.

    Any advice in this area/stage of recovery?

    1. Hi, thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear that you have a stress fracture – it can be very frustrating waiting for them to heal.
      I wore the boot for a couple of weeks. I don’t get much chance to sit down so it was important to keep as much pressure off the metatarsal as possible when I had to walk (and minimise the pain!) After that I switched to some supportive trainers. Obviously the Dr knows best but I think that if you are able to stay off your feet quite a bit then wearing the boot isn’t so important. The main thing is not to do any weight bearing exercise until it is fully healed which I believe is somewhere between 6-12 weeks. Hope that helped a little!

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