By David Webner, M.D., Associate Director, Sports Medicine Fellowship Program
This March will see the introduction of a new half-marathon for the city of Philadelphia. The Love Run, hosted by CGI Racing, will be held on March 30th and guides runners past some of Philly’s most memorable landmarks, including the Art Museum, Independence Mall and City Hall.
If you’re participating in the Love Run or any long-distance run this spring you’re probably already engrossed in training. Training for a half-marathon is long, hard work, and is something that should be started many months — or depending on your level of fitness, years — before the race. There are some important things you’ll need to remember as you progress through your training and prepare for race day.
How you approach your training regimen is important to avoiding injuries before or during the race. Many common injuries can be prevented by properly strengthening your core. For example, if you have never run before, you should not train for a marathon in four months, but rather slowly build you body up through a period of long walking and then running over a 1-2 year timeframe before you are safely ready to tackle such an arduous goal.
In addition, someone who has done some light running on and off should not select a training program that requires 5-6 days a week of running if they had been only doing two days a week before this. In order to attain this volume of running, one needs to slowly build up to these levels over the course of months. In many cases, some people cannot tolerate running more than every other day.
While your goal may be to just finish the marathon, take care during the training period and event itself to prevent injury. Some of the most common injuries that you could sustain include shin splints, stress fractures and tendinosis — which is inflammation followed by scarring and can happen to a variety of tendons throughout the body.
Some injuries, such as stress fractures, can be treated with rest — which means no running — to allow the bone to heal. Others require a visit to a sports medicine physician for evaluation and treatment.
When evaluating a new patient, I first do a comprehensive history, including an overview of the patient’s running program, running experience and previous injuries. Then I do a focused examination of the area in question. Occasionally, imaging — usually X-rays or an MRI — is needed to confirm or classify the injury further. Treatment is aimed at getting the runner back to doing what they want to do (i.e. run) as quickly and as safely as possible. Physical therapy is also indicated for certain conditions, such as tendon injuries
It is important for a novice marathoner, or even an experienced runner, to meet with a sports medicine physician prior to running a marathon. In addition to the factors mentioned above, the sports medicine physician should review the marathon training schedule and make sure the athlete is not at risk for overtraining or “breaking down” even before the marathon is ever run. In marathon training, more is definitely not always better.
The Healthplex Sports Medicine Institute is available to evaluate and treat novice and veteran long-distance runners with services including: management of overuse or stress fracture injuries, video gait analysis, custom foot orthotic evaluation and prescription, tenotomy and platelet-rich plasma therapy. For more information about the Healthplex Sports Medicine Institute or to make an appointment, call (610) 328-8810.