Sunday, 16 January 2011

Injury Battle


First of all I must apologise for the lack of blogging over the last 3 months! Unfortunately I’ve not been doing a lot of running due to injury so there’s not been a lot to blog about. You may remember I realised I had an issue a couple of weeks before the Loch Ness Marathon in October with pain on the inside of my shin. It was probably a result of overtraining during 2010 and because I packed so much into my first year of running my body has not had time to adjust. I doubt running a sub-3 hour marathon through the injury helped it. I did hope that with a short rest this would relent but it has persisted over the Autumn and Winter months and forced me into a frustrating spell on the side lines. At least premiership footballers have a massive wage packet to keep their chins up. Running has become a big part of my life and it had cruelly been taken away from me. It’s been an extremely frustrating time for me but I have been trying to make the best of the situation in a number of ways. I believe with my persistence I will come back stronger and faster and less likely to suffer injuries again.


Diagnosis Shin Splints

My physio quickly diagnosed my injury as shin splints. Shin splints is a common complaint among runners and is quite a generic term for problems at the front of the lower leg. I’ve had it explained to me numerous times by different people but still don’t understand it! But anyway, it’s often caused by overtraining, especially on hard surfaces because of the impact. If you're really interested, don't ask me, look it up in Wiki.

The physio advised me to do a lot of calf and hamstring stretches and to ice the affected area as many times a day as I could manage! And most importantly to rest completely from any activities involving impact for at least 6 weeks.  I stretched and iced religiously and went to spinning classes to keep up my fitness. 6 weeks passed and I tried running again. I managed 3 days running in a row without any pain but then a couple of days later my shin started aching. After all the hard work this was pretty demoralising and it felt like I was back to square one.


I have seriously been doubting whether I’ll be able to get fit in time for the London Marathon as it is creeping up fast. The problem is that even if the injury has healed, I can’t just start training again at the same level as I was a few months ago. I need to gradually build up again or I risk the injury just coming straight back. The last thing I want is for my first London Marathon to be a half-hearted attempt, I must do myself justice or it's not worth turning up. The good news is that this month I've managed a few pain-free runs and so far there has not been pain the day after either. Long may this continue if I am to have any hope of being for London.

The Morals

So what have I changed in my approach?

  • I’ve introduced some serious stretching to my regime as I reckon this may well have prevented the problem in the first place. I have focussed particularly on calf and hamstring stretches.
  • To compliment the stretching I have been getting some sports massages (when money allows!) which includes deep tissue massage - very painful!
  • I am also going to use the time that I am doing less running to work on strength and conditioning as this is something I’ve neglected due to the amount of pure running training I’ve been doing. This includes core strength work and weights.
  • I have been running more on grass as this results in less impact on my shin.

Here are 4 things I have learnt the hard way, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes:

1)      Stretch, stretch and stretch! Don’t make the same mistake as me and think you’re invincible. Taking 10-15 minutes to stretch after your run could save you months of frustration!
2)      Follow RICE. Rest Ice Compression Elevation. Most importantly ice your injury as soon as you can after feeling the pain. Rubbing ice cubes up and down for 10-15 mins is a very effective way if doing this.
3)      Don’t just run on roads if you’re doing a lot of mileage – do at least one run a week on a soft surface like grass or trail.
4)      Sports massage. If you’re doing a lot of mileage try and get some sports massage – expensive but priceless as it keeps all your bits from tightening to the point that you are prime for injury at any moment!


As a runner who doesn’t attend a running club or employ a coach, I have to rely on a number of other sources for information and advice on my injury.

As with most things these days I have gained most of my running knowledge online:

Time-to-Run – a global free online running magazine that contains a wealth of info on everything from training programs, advice on injury prevention. 

Runnersworld – the website for the magazine of the same name that contains. It is particularly useful for beginner training programs, finding events and equipment reviews.

As for the treatment of my injury, I can highly recommend Mark Green (Physio) and Timo Dahlstedt (Sports Massueur), if you are in the London area.

London Physio  Mark Green is a running injury specialist physiotherapist who I first used when I was struggling with an injury in the build-up to the Edinburgh Marathon last May. He has run a 2:33 marathon so understands the needs of runners.

Sports Massage – Timo Dahlstedt was recommended to me by Mark Green and has given me some very painful, but I’m sure very effective massages. He is based at Pineapple Dance Studios (oo err!)  in Covent Garden, London.

Sweatshop - The best running shop I have come across to date. I am basing this on my experiences at the Clapham branch where the staff are knowledgeable and helpful.

And finally, thank you to all my friends and family who have kept me positive. I will be back blogging about PBs in no time!