Marathon training: what not to do

Do you want to hear a horror story? It’s pretty scary.
It’s called The Day I Almost Ruined Everything.
Leave the light on for this one.

Two weeks ago I ran a horrific 34k long run that ended with a 5k death march and the feeling ‘never again!’ (yeah right!).

However, I felt pretty good the next day so I decided to go shopping with my mum.
I thought I would last one hour, maybe two. I am not always the shopping type. But there were a round of parties coming up (including my 40th, eep!) and I was searching for THE dress…

adaline dressThe dress . Yep – preeeettty fine!

…as well as all the presents you need when half your family has their birthday in the same week (hi ULUR brothers #1 & #2!!).

So we walked. And we walked. And then we stopped for lunch and walked some more.

5 hours later I was home. I took off my totally supportive flat shoes and felt a twinge in my right heel. I ignored it and went to bed, getting up to do my usual short Monday morning run of 5ish k’s. The pain was still there, but after I warmed up it went away. So I thought nothing more of it.

Later on that morning as I was driving to work I slammed on the brakes and just like that a nasty twinge became a nasty pain, right below my ankle bone. I had never felt anything like it before. It was more than a niggle now, it was aching even when I didn’t have any weight on it. I poked and prodded and stretched and massaged.
No go, it felt like the tendon was trying to come away from the joint.

Probably a bit not good.

So, being a professional amateur…something, I Googled ‘inner foot pain’.


dr google
I had, as far as I could tell, hurt my Tibialis Posterior muscle, one of the key stabilising muscles of the lower leg.
The main cause of injury for this muscle?
Flat feet, overpronation and/or wearing non-supportive shoes. Hmmm.
What? You mean running 34km then walking for 5+ hours wearing $15 shoes you bought from Kmart isn’t the best idea?

I tried not to panic. I wore my compression socks for about 36 hours straight and when that didn’t fix it I tried not to panic a bit more. I massaged, I foam rolled, I got out my ankle brace and wore that overnight.

I feel like I should have seen this coming. I’ve sprained and rolled my foot more times than I can count over the years, but it wasn’t until I started trail running that I stopped having any issues with my pathetically weak ankles. I can only guess that the many tiny little adjustments running on trails forces you to make has strengthened and toughened up my ankle muscles so they don’t give way when they’re not supposed to.

And they used to give way all the time. For years I thought I was super clumsy. After all, no one else I knew sprained their ankle standing on the edge of a doormat, or bruised their toe tripping over miniscule cracks in the pavement. At least, not once they learned how to walk anyway.

Then I found out that I wasn’t clumsy, just a bit of a mutant. I have a very mild form of hypermobility , which means I can touch my thumb to my forearm, hyperextend my legs and can almost always place my hands flat on the ground with my legs straight.

Apart from freaking people out at parties and never having a problem sitting crosslegged on the floor even though I am an old fart it is not a particularly useful talent. Actually, for running it is downright unhelpful. Basically, the stretchier you are, the more power you lose every time you push off the ground and land.

Runners like me who have Gumby muscles are never going to be as fast as those guys with tendons made of wood who can’t reach past their knees.
Anyway, my point with all this is that I knew the particular drunken camel running foot-flick I did with my right leg was not great form, but this is the first time I have had any problems because of it.

Believe me when I say that fixing my running form has now become top of my list.

I need to give my foot-flick the flick-flick!!

Long story short, after 4 long days of not panicking, the pain was mostly gone.

I planned on going for a gentle 6k run but nothing hurt so I kept going and did a great 15k run. The next day it was still fine so I did another 10.
After that I was busy getting wasted, sozzled enjoying the company of friends and family at the first of two 40th birthday parties!


3 siblings 40th

From L-R: ULUR Brother #1, ULUR Sister, and Me


cake rene only

The cake tasted as fantastic as it looked – thanks to my Sister-in-Law’s amazing baking and decorating skills – and so did the cocktails!

So I took another two days off and then ran my usual 7.5k route. Still all good.
The big test was the 19k long run last saturday. Again, no problems.
Phew. That was close.

I am still getting the odd funny feeling in that area. No pain, not even a niggle, just a slight pull that I wouldn’t even be paying any attention to if I wasn’t about to taper for this marathon.

Normally I would stick my head in the sand about any aches and pains at this point – they’re pretty much par for the course at the end of a training cycle and fixating on them is no help – but I thought I’d better mention it in case things blow up during the race.
Between now and then all I have time left to do is keep up my strength work and practice keeping my foot in every time I take a step.
Maybe I’ve caught it in time, maybe I haven’t, but I don’t think I am going to find out for sure until the day of the race.
11 days to go…but who’s counting??

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