To Race or Not to Race…that is the question, and here are the answers!
By Alex Tarlow
Often leading up to a race we overanalyze each ouch, ugh, creak & cramp. We have enlisted the help of 26.2-veterans for advice on when to continue training, scrap the race or RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation).
We realize each injury is unique If we have not addressed your ailment please reach out to us either through the comment section below or on our social sites.
Here are some questions to ask yourself, with our comments, quotes & tips peppered in…
Is the pain something that has developed suddenly or over the course of a few days/weeks?
Look at how much time is remaining until race day; 9-out-of-10 times you should rest and let your body recover. If the pain has been bubbling up prior to this point it’s possible that there is an overuse or deeper injury lurking.
Lauren Ross, registered dietitian and avid runner, recalls a quote that helped her decide a recovery plan leading up to the Boston Marathon, “’You could spend a lifetime regretting the days when you continued running; you’ll never regret the three to seven days of rest (Runners World, 2012, Simple Secrets to a Lifetime of Running)’- It’s something I keep in my phone to remind me about resting”.
Address a minor discomfort before it becomes a more serious injury which can derail training. Be aware of the ‘life’ remaining in your current training shoes, running on flat tires is a sure way to bring on injury. Running shoes should last 400 – 600 miles but may vary depending on surface, form, or shoe design. Check the treads like you would car tires; if the inner-grooves are flush with the surface treads- it’s time for new shoes.
Is the pain/soreness isolated to one side of the body, or is it equal on both?
If the discomfort is limited to one-side of the body it’s usually a sign of an injury. Other less serious causes can be: running high mileage on crowned-roads, form slacking during the latter portions of long runs or an imbalance either through stretching or strengthening.
Think about when the pain or discomfort starts; during the first mile, anytime running, at race-pace or general soreness? If it is at the beginning of a run, consider a longer warm up with more active stretching. Discomfort during the run may be due to tight or fatigued muscles- try adding more post-run recovery work; foam rollers, cross-training or yoga will also help. General soreness? Look at the your average terrain as well as the condition of your training shoes.
Is the pain a discomfort or is it derailing your training?
Numbness in the foot? Knee pain? Muscle fatigue/pain?
Numbness in the foot is typically due to tight lacing, old or ill-fitting shoes. In some cases this can be a form issue stemming from over-striding. Listen to your stride, if you hear your feet slapping at the ground shorten your stride and check your shoe wear patterns. Stop in your local running store for a shoe & gait analysis to rule out some variables.
Knee Pain can be a tricky one to diagnose.
Is it isolated below the kneecap? Sounds like runners-knee; this is an imbalance and/or overuse issue. Logging heavy road miles or building up distance too quickly can lead to this knee fatigue issue. The real culprit is the crowning of the roads- great for keeping roads dry, awful for runners. The crown of a road causes runners to run with one knee at a higher pitch. Try sidewalks, paved or gravel paths. Another tip is to slow your average pace down, the faster you run – the more force you’re putting into each stride.
Acute pain? If it is an area cramp check your hydration habits. Try loading up on sodium rich chews like Margarita Clif Shots Blocks or create an active hydration drink by adding Nuun, SaltStick caps, or GU Brew to your water. Typically added into water before a workout these vitamin & mineral rich tablets will dissolve into your drink and are ideal for runners. SaltSticks will increase the absorption rate of liquids and may be taken without water.
Rethink your warm-up. Running the first 2-miles slower during a 10-miler does not count. Try an active warm-up which engages all the muscles and is different than a static stretch warm-up. Stop in your local running store or research the benefits of compression gear for additional support. Calf sleeves & socks are ideal for increasing blood-flow and stabilizing the muscles.
When is the race? Over/Under 3 weeks?
Jason Ayer, co-founder of the Western Mass Distance Project, shares his decision process when injury strikes, “If the injury comes at a point in your training where there is still significant fitness to work towards before the race, I’d say you should shift focus to rehabbing the injury and bag the race.”
When to fight through:
JA: “The last 2-3 weeks are going to be a taper, extra rest to heal an injury would still allow you to get to the starting line fit. Then, unlike in the previous scenario, worst case scenario is you drop out of the event if significant pain comes on mid-race, but at least you have a fighting chance fitness wise” .
When to say ‘next time’:
JA: “Knowing before the race that you are definitely still injured should be an automatic NO. There really isn’t one race that is worth the risk of permanent damage.”
And sometimes, you throw caution to the wind as Kevin Quadrozzi explains. “It all depends on how bad you want it, do what you’ve got to do to get yourself to the starting line.”
We want to take this chance to mention that neither the author, or opinions shared are those of certified physicians. It’s always best to refer to a professional when addressing pain or discomfort.
Kevin continues, “Adrenaline helps with pain, just got to get to the starting line…”
We hope this helps when deciding whether to grit your teeth or plan for the next race. We could go on, and on… BUT we prefer to personally address your questions- please stop in one of our stores or comment below with a detailed description of what ails you and we’ll be sure to reply back.
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