Cross the finish line without injury so your first marathon won’t be your last

Marathons are gruelling, challenging events that require tough, disciplined training. But just how much intensive training can you take? It pays to listen to your body and pace yourself during training sessions so you not only avoid injury, but also keep your body running at peak condition.


Andy Rae, 27, adheres without fail to his regular routine: 20km a day, six days a week, plus an additional 10km on Sundays. His body has always recovered in time for his next run, but one day, the familiar soreness did not dissipate after he ran a marathon.

The nagging pain did not go away after a week and Rae was eventually diagnosed with knee tendonitis, which is inflammation of the tendons surrounding the knee. He received anti-inflammatory injections with strict instructions not to do any exercise, apart from walking for the next three weeks.

Indeed, over-training can potentially cause injury to even fit, healthy athletes in their 20s and 30s. Although Rae was cross training by playing racket games and swimming the culmination of all the physical exertion meant that his body never truly got a rest. The human body can adapt to changes repeatedly, but without sufficient rest, recovery is hampered. When this happens, injuries invariably occur.

4 Ways To Avoid Marathon Injuries

1. Progression runs

Start slow and finish fast – this is what those training for marathons are advised to do. Progression runs are the best way to carry this out. To structure your progression runs properly, consider breaking your runs into thirds. For example, for a 45-minute run, start with a slower than usual pace for the first is minutes. Then maintain your normal pace for the next 15 minutes before finishing off with a striding pace for the last third of the run.

Another form of progression run involves running at a normal pace for 85 per cent of your run, but ending with an almost flat-out sprint that pushes your heart rate to more than 90 per cent of its maximum by the end. The last form of progression run is a sprint that dictates a “dog-at-your-heels” pace for the last two to three minutes of a normal pace run.
Sprinter leaving starting blocks on the running track. Explosive
Generally, progression runs help to prime your body and warm up the muscles slowly so as to prevent injury. They also enable you to add high-intensity runs into your stamina-based training, but at a level that you can easily recover from. In addition, they add an element of variety to running routines. That said, progression runs should be a complement to your other training routines. For instance, if you run three or four times a week, schedule one progression run within the week. The other days should be devoted to other types of training.

2. Cross training

Cross training is by no means a substitute for marathon training, but it is meant to reduce the stress on your running muscles.
Some suitable and beneficial cross-training sports include cycling, swimming and working out on an elliptical trainer. All of these activities work on your cardio-vascular fitness without putting too much stress on the joints. Rule out high-impact exercises like tennis and basketball, as these sports can traumatise the soft connective tissues around your knees. These tissues are vital for keeping your injuries at bay, especially when pushing that last 5km in a marathon.

3. Inconsistent training

Inconsistent training is perhaps the biggest cause of running injuries. You cannot hurry training for a marathon. Conversely, over-zealous training can also lead to injuries. If you keep on increasing the distance, it wit I become counter-productive at some point, so avoid increasing your long runs by more than 10 per cent per week.

4. Dietary requirements

runner diet
Training aside, diet plays an important part in your performance too. Athletes should eat mainly starchy foods such as rice and potatoes, and that these should be consumed two to four hours before training.

With the right methods, you will be able to undergo the tough training and be ready to beat your last record without putting yourself at risk of injury.


Age Specific Trouble Spots

Young Athletes (Age: 20 – 40)

(i) Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) The iliotibial band is a thick band that starts from the hip to the shin and provides stability to the knee joint. ITBS is caused when the band becomes inflamed and tender.

(ii) Snapping Hip Syndrome (SHS) SHS occurs when the iliotibial band snaps over the outside of the thigh. It also occurs when the deep hip flexor muscles flip over the front of the hip joint. Tears around the hip socket can also cause a painful snapping sensation.

Mature Athletes (Age: 40 – 50)

Age-related reduction in elasticity and strength of muscles, tendons and ligaments make one susceptible to injuries like knee osteoarthritis, tearing of cartilage in the knee joint, or the Achilles tendon becoming inflamed or ruptured. Take note of lifestyle diseases (e.g. coronary heart disease) and seek medical advice before commencing training.