How to avoid injury in the marathon build-up

Urban Body physiotherapist Dylan Quinn on how not to jeopardise all your hard training


by Trail Running |

Many marathon runners make the mistake of pushing themselves too hard over the last few weeks before the race and find themselves disappointed with their time or, even worse, injured.

It’s vital not to try to play catch up if you haven’t hit the mileage you planned and instead, increase your distances slowly rather than dramatically. It’s also extremely important to continue your strength training up to the week of the race to ensure you perform at your best.

Mix your runs

Not every run should be performed at the same intensity. If you run at the same pace all the time, your body will adapt and at a certain point your fitness will stop improving. Your plan needs to include weekly long runs to build endurance, combined with a few shorter tempo runs or speed workouts that build strength and speed.

If you only do long runs, this could put your body under too much strain, causing injury or exhaustion. To minimise the likelihood of overtraining and injury, mix up your run lengths. We recommend alternating your run lengths and including cross-training exercises. Make sure you taper off in the last 2-3 weeks so you don’t burn out before the race.

Diet and running fuel

What you put into your body not only secures your energy throughout your training but can also aid your recovery and enhance muscle growth. We advise including the following food groups in your training diet plan:

Carbohydrates – Meals rich in good carbohydrates, such as quinoa, rice and oats, provide your body with plenty of energy.

Protein – It’s vital to ensure your muscles recover after each training exercise. Proteins such as meat, fish, nuts, and milk are all good sources.

Vegetables – Your body needs vitamins and nutrients while running, so it’s important to incorporate as many vegetables into your diet as possible, to keep you healthy and protected against illness.

Fueling your body with the right amount and type of calories is going to give you sustained energy so you feel great during your runs. There are quite a few options you could try before finding the one that suits you best, such as energy gels or chews.

You also need to hydrate enough before, during, and after your run to perform at your best. Failing to do so will affect your performance and could lead to dehydration. Water is key but don’t overdo it, be led by your body and drink when you are thirsty.

Recovery and massage

When it comes to marathon training, rest is non-negotiable. Make sure you have a consistent sleep schedule of 8 hours each night, and also include easy running days. These usually happen the day after a long or hard run and are meant to help you maintain a higher running volume while reducing intensity.

Foam rolling, dynamic stretching and staying hydrated should be integrated into your recovery process.

Massage can really help you relax and aid your recovery, reducing fatigue, aches and pains. Hands-on treatment causes a chain reaction of events, increasing blood flow which in turn increases muscle temperature and the elasticity of the muscle tissue, relieving tightness and tension and therefore, any pain you are experiencing.

Karen Bradshaw, 51, from Solihull is one of our patients and is hoping to complete her marathon in under 5 hours. She says: "I’ve really felt the benefit from deep-tissue massage and manipulation after I started to feel a niggle in my calf and hamstring. I’ve been rigorously following a bespoke stretching and exercise plan and my physio is, quite rightly, reminding me to hold back and be realistic so I don’t injure myself. I feel my body’s ready so I can’t wait for the big day!"

Ready, set, RACE

When the race is finally around the corner, the most important thing you can do is to stick to your training plan and don’t try anything different. Trust your training because, if you have put in the work, you’ll be up for the challenge. On race day:

· Warm up thoroughly and include some stride-out dynamic stretching

· Have some energy gels for the race that you have tried and tested as part of your training

· Most importantly, relax and enjoy it because running a marathon is an incredible achievement!”

Urban Body is a Solihull-based physiotherapist

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