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Recognizing and Treating Long-Distance Running Injuries

262,000 steps. 384 times around the bases of a baseball diamond. Seventeen times around the Central Park Reservoir.

On Sunday, Nov. 1, 50,000 runners ran the equivalent of those distances, winding through New York City’s historic neighborhoods and across her bridges to race arguably (definitely!) one of the best distance races in the world, the New York City Marathon.[1]

At 26.2 miles, a marathon is a considerable distance for a runner.

Running long distances has become a more and more popular form of exercise and competition, including distances even longer than marathons called ultramarathons, which can be as long as 100 miles. People who train for and race very long distances are at much higher risk for training and race injuries than other runners.

Hundreds of Miles Means Hundreds of Ways to Get Injured

Training for a marathon or longer distance means that you’ll put in hundreds of miles of training and tune-up races, which is hard on even the healthiest and fittest body.

Running injuries can span from the innocuous - a minor pain that builds into something like shin splints over time - to the serious, such as a stress fracture or sprain that clearly requires time off from training.

For competitive runners, the temptation is always to ignore smaller aches and pains in favor of not deviating from the training schedule.

Of course, you would always address injuries like sprains or fractures by seeking medical attention, but injuries that seem like they might fade away before your next long-distance day can be tempting to just ignore.

However, these kinds of injuries can actually compound over time and become a typical over-training injury.

These can include:

  • Stress fractures
  • Joint pain
  • Sprained joints
  • Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome or shin splints
  • Plantar fasciitis or heel spurs
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Bursitis
  • Sciatica or nerve irritation in lower back
  • Exceptional fatigue[2]

 

Naturally, training for extremely long races simply exacerbates the risk all runners take when pushing their bodies. A 2014 Runner’s World survey found that almost 65 percent of runners training for ultramarathons had been injured badly enough to miss training in the previous year, despite being generally far healthier than the average American.[3]

Too often, even experienced runners will convince themselves to keep going when they should be getting treated professionally and taking some time off from training to heal. What’s more, if you’re running with a painful injury, then chances are you’re injuring some other part of yourself at the same time. Experiencing a lot of pain in your right foot? You might have hurt your left knee and never treated it properly, and your body learned to compensate, over-stressing your right side. Sprained your right ankle but never had a medical professional treat it? Chances are you’re experiencing pain on your left side somewhere, maybe your hip or knee. It’s important for runners of all distances to take pain seriously and not just “grit through it.” Pain is your body trying to tell you something, and it can actually change the way you run if you push yourself through too much.[4]

 

How to Treat Distance Running Injuries and Get Back to Training

Whether you’re training for a 100-mile ultramarathon, next year’s New York City Marathon, or building up to any longer distances after catching the running bug, pain while running should not be ignored. Any abnormal pain in your back, hips, or legs can be enough of a reason to head to a GoHealth Urgent Care center to get it checked out. Few running injuries are severe enough to require the emergency room, but you’ll definitely want to get an examination and treatment quickly to minimize the disruption to your training schedule. Urgent care is the perfect solution. Once you get to a New York or Long Island urgent care center, a medical professional will see you almost immediately and ask some questions about your physical activity and medical history, including any other running-related injuries you’ve sustained in the past.

A physical exam should tell the medical professional most of what they need to know about the issue you came in to evaluate. You can get same-day treatment at urgent care for most common running injuries, and you can even get x-rays at the same office, so you don’t have to waste a minute running (figuratively) all over town. If you need any medication or treatment such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or physical therapy, your physician will discuss that with you, as well as recommending how long you should rest to fully recover from your injury before running again.

We understand that it can be hard to adjust to disruption in a complex training schedule. The same drive that powers you through 26.2 miles and beyond can also make you drive yourself through pain or injuries. But proper, efficient medical treatment for running injuries can actually minimize disruption to your running time down the road. So if you’re training for a long race and experience any kind of pain, just stop into a convenient GoHealth Urgent Care center for fast treatment and let us be part of your support team so you can be your best on race day.

 

[1] [1. “TCS Runfographics,” accessed Oct. 29, 2015, http://www.tcsnycmarathon.org/tcs-runfographics

[2] [2. “Common Leg Injuries of Long Distance Runners: Anatomical and Biomechanical Approach,” Nov. 2012, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3497945/

[3] [3. “What Ultra-Marathons Do to Our Bodies,” Jan. 15, 2014, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/15/what-ultra-marathons-do-to-our-bodies/?_r=0

[4] [4. “Uhan’s Three Laws of Running Injury,” April 9, 2013, http://www.irunfar.com/2013/04/uhans-laws-of-running-injury.html

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