Avoiding Injury When Training For A Long Distance Running Race

When training for a long distance run, it is easy to get carried away and go overboard with the amount of training you do. In this blog we explain the most common reason for a training related injury and what to do to avoid it.

Picture the scene; for months you’ve been training for a long distance running event, putting in the time and effort, through all the seasons and elements and balancing your work and life commitments, knowing that you have to do it all again tomorrow. 

But as race day approaches, the last thing you need is a frustrating injury that’s going to put your training on hold, or worse, force you to miss the event entirely. 

Almost all long distance running related injuries are down to one thing; miss management of the increase of mileage and training load! 

We frequently see injured runners come into the clinic here at Pure Sports Medicine (PSM) with injuries sustained from increasing their weekly mileage too quickly. This is even common with the most experienced of runners. However, there are ways and tips to reduce the risk of an overload’ injury — which is essentially an injury caused by doing too much training over too short-a-period of time, and therefore asking the body to do more than it’s capable of. 

In Denmark, over 800 runners took part in a study which found that the novice runners were more likely to develop a long distance running related injury (e.g. achilles tendinopathy, patello femoral joint pain and shin splints) if they increased their weekly mileage by more than 30%. The runners who increased their weekly mileage by less than 10% were less likely to sustain an injury. 

The number of years a person has been running will also often play a factor in the onset of niggles and injures.

Many who train for events like the London Marathon or Asics London — especially newer runners — have been known to manage 40 to 50 miles per week towards the final stages of the 4 month training plan before niggles and injuries set in. 

The elite runners on the other hand could be found runing 70 to 100 miles per week with no problems at all. This is because their bodies (muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints) had developed the ability, robustness and strength to withstand the training loads and demands put upon their bodies over the 70 to 100 miles per week. 

For non elite runners and those taking part in their first event, when their weekly training mileage exceeded 50 miles, can often feel their body begin to breakdown and niggles start to set in. At that point you have to reduce the mileage accordingly which can be mentally difficult and feel counterproductive but it is definitely the correct thing to do. 

Another way to reduce the risk of injury and to increase the body’s robustness to running training loads and mileage is to become stronger. A running specific Strength and Conditioning programme will help every long distance runner, be it Eliud Kipchoge the Marathon world record holder or a casual weekend runner. This will help maintain good running form and therefore make the body more energy efficient. Good running strength will also increase the body’s ability to withstand the high levels of force put upon its structures (tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints) during training and many miles pounding the pavements. 

Here at Pure Sports Medicine, we have highly experienced Physiotherapists and Strength and Conditioning coaches working closely together, writing and implementing training programmes for all types of runners with all types of personal goals. We find this a very effective way to guide clients through running training programmes, to progress and develop them into a more efficient and stronger runner. 

Appropriate running footwear is also a key consideration when trying to reduce the risk of a running related injury. There is no best’ brand of running trainer and no particular running trainer I can recommend over another. However, the main considerations to think about when buying a pair of running trainers are; the fit — do you have a narrow or wide foot or somewhere in between, and therefore do the trainers fit your foot type appropriately? Do you require a neutral or anti pronating supportive trainer? Is the cushioning appropriate to your running style and type of terrain you are running on? 

Our highly trained Podiatrists can further analyse an individual’s foot type and running gait to advise further on appropriate running trainers. 

Another very significant part to anyone’s training plan is…recovery! After all the miles run and time spent training in the gym your body needs time to recover and adapt to the training stimulus. This includes appropriate rest, refuelling, sleep and Soft Tissue Therapy. One way of aiding recovery and helping avoid injury is to add in a de-load’ week every 3 – 4 weeks during your training. This is when the weeks training volume drops by 40 – 50% on the previous week. It is also important to make sure you are replacing the calories and nutrients used during training with appropriate nutrition. 

Soft Tissue Therapy can also help ease muscle tension and discomfort from the heavy training volumes. Our Soft Tissue Therapists are excellent at helping clients ease their muscular tension and tightness and aid their recovery. 

Finally, be sure to also get enough shut eye by catching plenty of zzz’s between training sessions too. Studies have shown a significant reduction in injury rates amongst athletes who manage 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night compared to those who only managed less then 7 hours of sleep per night. 

In summary, here are our top tips to help you along the way and avoid those common frustrations:

  • Follow a specialised training plan from an experienced running coach.
  • Increase your mileage by 10% or less per week.
  • Incorporate a good running specific Strength and Conditioning programme into your training plan.
  • Wear appropriate running trainers that fit your individual foot shape and type.
  • Get plenty of good quality sleep, nutrition and recovery between training sessions.