Training update: hurting enough to stop running (and cross-train instead)

As a follow up to my last two entries, I probably shouldn’t have done the back-to-back runs last weekend, even if they were done at a very easy pace. I could have rested up and done some cross-training instead. At least that’s what I did this week. Tuesday night was at the pool, Thursday was a test run, then on a gym bike, and today (Saturday) I effectively cycled my scheduled run mileage (32 km / 20 mi).

I hope to see my specialist soon, but self-diagnosis indicates my pain is due to an overworked Achilles tendon, possibly exacerbated by improper shoes. Even though I haven’t felt much pain during the runs of the last two weeks, that is never a green light to do anything excessive.

I feel I have to be proactive to avoid exacerbating the injury, but I fear I have lost valuable training time ahead of the Vancouver Marathon. There are five weeks left and I’ve already missed two long runs in row (of lengths 30 and 33 km / 18.6 and 20.5 mi). The schedule has one final run of 36 km (22.4 mi), to take place in two weeks. And I’ve read in Marathon and Half Marathon: The Beginner’s Guide (2006) that I should ease myself back to my scheduled training, but only when I’m effectively pain free in the affected area.

Is there enough time for recovery? With about a month left for training, should I focus instead on a future race? If I have to write off racing in May, I feel that it wouldn’t be so bad than if I were running out of town. I’d like to hear how you handled an injury during training, and if I should do anything else (besides what I’ve mentioned above) to put me at ease.

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5 Comments on “Training update: hurting enough to stop running (and cross-train instead)”

  1. Jennifer says:

    In my opinion the best thing to do at this point would be to drop back in mileage and not do the marathon. If you can still run some distance, you could change to the half marathon and do it as a training run if necessary. You’ve missed much the key building volume phase of the marathon, and trying to catch up at this point would leave you very undertrained at best. And that’s not a great way to do a first marathon with no base behind you.
    I also wouldn’t chose any later marathon yet, but just go back to trying to safely build your mileage. See where you get and then pick something when you get stronger. Also try to figure out what caused the problem this time so that you can avoid it. It was likely a combination of too much volume and/or intensity before allowing for adaptation. Some people need more time than standard training plans include.
    Good luck and happy healing. Remember to keep your chin up- there WILL be other races.

  2. Jennifer says:

    In my opinion it would be best to cut back your mileage to whatever reasonable level you can do and put the marathon on hold. If you can handle half-marathon distances then you can drop to that. But you’ve simply missed too much of the key building phase of the marathon training now, and forcing it at this point will just lead to a painful, undertrained marathon at best (or a worse injury).

    I also wouldn’t necessarily plan on a later marathon just yet. Rebuild your mileage safely and see where you get in the next couple months or so, but you really don’t need to rush. (One option is to sign up for Seattle at the end of June and drop to the half if necessary, but unfortunately it’s the same weekend as Scotiabank.)

    Also try to figure out what actually caused this problem so that you can avoid it again. Was it a combination of the increasing load of marathon mileage and intensity without enough adaptation? If it’s just shoes then the problem usually goes away quickly after changing shoes.

  3. Eric says:

    Jennifer(s) – Thanks for the advice and support. I’ve resigned myself to missing the marathon, but there are certainly more opportunities to try again.

    I’ve just bought a pair of stability shoes, so I’ll test them once I feel I’m ready to run again.

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