In 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!
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!