We aggregated nine of the most frequently asked running questions and answered them once and for all.
Why do I get a stitch in my side when I run?1 of 10
Getting an ache in your side when you run is no fun, but the good news is it's a common minor ailment. Some people may be more prone to side stitches (women, younger people and the less conditioned), but there are a few things you can try that may lessen their frequency or severity.
First, give yourself at least a couple of hours between eating and running. While it's important to be hydrated before you run, you need to give your body enough time to empty the fluid from your stomach. In other words, don't gulp a bunch of water within 20 minutes of starting a run.
Warming up before you get going might also help. Start off with either some easy jogging or a round of dynamic exercises. This can help regulate more even blood flow to your muscles and diaphragm.
What are shin splints (and how can I avoid them)?2 of 10
Shin splints—indicated by pain along the front or side of the shinbone—are an overuse injury most often caused by improper foot mechanics. New runners often experience this injury simply because their lower leg muscles aren't sufficiently developed, and they run too far too early in their training. Increasing your mileage too quickly, running too far forward on the balls of the feet or overpronating may also cause shin splints.
Strengthening the lower leg and foot muscles, practicing proper mechanics with running drills and wearing orthotic foot supports are a few things that may help you avoid or overcome shin splints. Also make sure to gradually build your mileage instead of adding miles to your training plan too quickly.
Why is a marathon 26.2 miles?3 of 10
If you've ever run a marathon, it's likely that you've asked yourself at some point, "Why am I doing this?". In addition to questioning your sanity, you probably also wondered why a marathon is made up of 26.2 miles. What's with the 0.2? Why 26 instead of the nice, round 25?
The history of the distance dates back to the legend of Pheidippides, the Greek messenger who reportedly ran from the battlefield in Marathon to the capital city, Athens, to report victory. While the race was never run in the ancient Greek Olympic games, it was introduced in 1896—the first year of the modern-era Olympic Games—with the distance set at 40 kilometers (24.85 miles) to honor the approximate distance of Pheidippides' fabled run.
If 24.85 miles already seems plenty long, you can blame British royalty—specifically, Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII—for tacking on the extra 1.35 miles. During the 1908 London Olympics, the queen reportedly requested that the route be altered so the royal family could watch both the start of the race at Windsor Castle and the finish in front of the royal box in the stadium. Once the distance had been increased, the Olympic committee didn't see fit to change it back.
What is runner's butt (and how can I avoid it)?4 of 10
The term "runner's butt" may conjure visions of a well-muscled posterior, but it's actually a reference to a running injury known medically as piriformis syndrome, and more commonly as sciatica. The piriformis is a short, wide muscle deep in the gluteals that originates at the sacrum and attaches to the head of the femur.
This muscle is responsible for external rotation of the femur at the hip, something you do on a micro level thousands of times over the course of a run. When other hip rotators are weak or inactive, too much of this work is left to the piriformis, which can cause it to become inflamed. That inflammation can pinch the sciatic nerve, which runs just below (or sometimes right through) the piriformis muscle.
Runners can avoid this painful condition by strengthening the other external hip rotators and stretching the piriformis when the femur is in passive external rotation, as it is in pigeon pose.
What should I eat before a race?5 of 10
Every runner wants to know what the best pre-race meal is, but the truth is that when you eat may be more important than what you eat. For shorter races where your pace will be relatively quick, taking in some simple carbohydrates in liquid form 30 to 60 minutes before the race may be beneficial. It's not necessary to have a full meal two to four hours before a short race.
For longer races, eating a higher number of calories—and mostly carbs—at least four hours before the race will help you go the distance. It's a good idea to avoid high-fat and high-fiber foods and stick to meals you've practiced with in training.
As far as exactly what to eat, you should experiment with a variety of foods during your training to see what works best for you. Never try something new on race day—you never know how your stomach will react to the unfamiliar food.
What should I eat after a run?6 of 10
You definitely don't need to eat after every run, but when you put in a very hard or long workout, a post-run meal or snack can help jumpstart your recovery. The goal is to replace what's just been depleted and give your body the energy and nutrients it needs to begin the physiological adaptations that will make you a better runner.
Start with fluids and electrolytes, especially if you sweat excessively while running. Restore glycogen stores by pairing some high-quality whole grains with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Adding some protein will also help your body repair and rebuild muscle tissue. Aim for a 1:3 ratio of carbs to protein (in grams), and try to eat within 60 minutes of finishing your workout.
Is the "runner's high" a real thing?7 of 10
If you head out looking for that runner's high but end up thinking, "Just shoot me now," you're not alone. While there is scientific evidence showing the runner's high is a real thing, it can be hard to achieve, even for the most experienced runner.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of releasing the feel-good hormones responsible for that high. It's important to get yourself into the right mindset. If you're dreading a run or looking at it like a chore, you won't be likely to find your flow. Try to remember why you run or remind yourself of your goals and have a good attitude about your training.
When you head out, play around with speed and try to find your own personal sweet spot. Start by easing into a run with 10 minutes of easy jogging, then increase the pace until it feels comfortably hard. Hold there until you feel the endorphins (hopefully) kick in.
Is it OK to run every day?8 of 10
Run streaks are popular for dedicated runners and, if done for a short period of time, they can be beneficial for building the habit of running and improving your aerobic base.
However, when we interviewed top running coaches and asked what they wished runners would stop doing, they all emphatically wish runners would not skip rest days. A smart training plan will include at least one or two rest or recovery days per week.
How do I know if I'm ready for a marathon?9 of 10
For many runners, the marathon represents the ultimate challenge, a chance to test both mental and physical stamina. But how do you know if you're ready for that challenge? We posed this question to Leslie Branham, a USATF Level I running coach at Equipt Fitness in Saint Paul, Minnesota, who joked, "I tell my runners that when their running life becomes their social life, they're ready to sign up for a marathon."
On a more serious note, Branham said that a lot of runners can aerobically slog out the miles, but she often sees a breakdown in form, which can lead to injury. Instead of using weekly mileage as a marker, she watches to see whether a runner can easily maintain good running form throughout a 10-mile run at near marathon race pace. Using this form test can help ensure you'll finish the race safely and injury-free.