4 Running Setbacks and How to Handle Them

You've survived the bulk of your training with no major issues. Just as you're about to taper, you feel an unfamiliar twinge in your foot or stiffness in your kneed on hills. Suddenly, you're questioning your race plans. Can you still go for a personal record? Can you get through 26.2 miles, or should you do a half-marathon in stead?

"It's easy to panic when your body talks to you, but it's normal to feel slightly 'off' during a taper," says Tim Hilden, M.S., M.P.T., a marathoner and physical therapist in Boulder, Colorado. "As you get closer to your race and and you reach a high training volume, that opens up a new door of possible problems, especially if you've been pushing yourself harder than you're used to. Pay attention because some pains shouldn't be dismissed."

Here Hilden advises when to proceed and when to reevaluate your race-day goals:

What's Wrong?

General Aches, Pains

Carry On

It's typical to feel generally achy, sore, and tired, especially at the peak of training. These symptoms will likely resolve themselves when you run less and recover more during your taper.

Back Off

If you can pinpoint pain to one specific body part, it's usually a sign of injury. See a sports-medicine professional for a diagnosis to see if you need to alter your race-day plans.

What's Wrong?

Stiffness, soreness

Carry On

If this fades during a run once you warm up, it's probably delayed-onset muscle soreness from your last hard workout. Or you may have sat at your desk for too long.

Back Off

If this is ongoing or worsens as your run, you have an injury. Starting your taper — plus stretching, icing, and massage — might help. If not, see a sports-medicine professional.

What's Wrong?

Pain during a specific workout (intervals or hill repeats)

Carry On

Eliminate the workout that's aggravating you can continue your training with less intensity. Getting in easy mileage is enough to get you to the finish line.

Back Off

If these workouts are essential to your race goal, and you won't be content running to finish, skip this race. Resolve your issue and get healthy before you resume intense training.

What's Wrong?

Injury

Carry On

Runner's knee, illiotibial-band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, and shinsplints are issue you may be able to run through — so long as you aren't limping. Marathoners may want to change their race plans. Ice, massage, and stretch through your taper.

Back Off

A stress fracture or muscle pull means game over. These injuries are too serious to run through. And you wont' have any fun hobbling to the finish line of any distance. Take time off to fully recover so you can make a strong comeback.

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