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How can I stay injury free when I’m marathon training?

Sports Injury Fix Director and resident running expert Mike James, has spent over 20 years as a Physio treating and training runners worldwide. He is also a competitive runner who has completed over 100 marathons and 50 ultra-marathons, so when he talks, we tend to listen. We asked him to give Run Mummy Run his top tips for staying injury free while training.

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The last twenty years has seen a remarkable increase in people lacing up their shoes and getting bitten by the running bug. The mythical marathon distance of 26.2 miles remains the ultimate challenge for many.

Regardless of age and ability, running related injuries are common, and despite having a generally low level, mid-range dynamic nature, a relatively high incidence is observed.

So, how can we prevent, or reduce the risk of encountering such problems?

Here are my top tips….

Goal Setting

This should be the first thing any Marathoner does. Ask yourself, what do I want to achieve? Some people are entering the race to raise money for charity, others aim to set a PB. Every aspect of the coming 4-8 months will be determined by your goals.

Choose the right training regime

The running world is now saturated with programmes, from off-the-shelf to bespoke 1:1 regimes. If you choose one that pushes too hard based on your current level you may increase injury risk.  Yet if you choose a regime that doesn’t push you enough and the finish line may never materialise. If possible, speak to an established coach with a high success rate of marathon finishers and go for the tailored approach.

Prepare for the training regime

I see many runners picking up niggles simply by failing to prepare for a regime. They choose their race and training regime and jump straight into it. Unfortunately, for many, there is a gap between their current ability and the level needed even to commence a 20-24-week regime. Plan backwards, and add weeks as needed to build a sufficient level of fitness in preparation for your actual training regime.

Get Strong!

Research suggests that strength work can potentially reduce injuries by almost 50%. Performing two sessions weekly in the off season, with a once weekly maintenance session in season appears effective.  A general approach, largely able to be performed at home should suffice. Runner’s Strength Training Regime

Manage existing aches and pains

Very few runners are lucky enough to avoid the usual niggles associated with such high load and high frequency training. This can be the trigger for exacerbating niggles into larger problems. Seek advice from a therapist, explain your plans and work together to address these issues to allow you the best chance of completing the training ahead.

Time Management

For many runners, finding the balance between work, family, social and training commitments can be the hardest factor. Even with the most supportive loved ones and colleagues, it can be difficult to fit everything in. Try to plan novel ways to maximise training without affecting other aspects of you life. Finding this balance may not directly reduce injury risk, however, those struggling to find a balance, are more likely to cram sessions, over train, deviate from plans and limit recovery, factors which can all lead to injury.

Plan your season and races

I advocate using other races as preparation. I generally feel that these should be used as organised training sessions to practice using new kit, feeding strategies, pacing etc and as break from the monotony of training. Be careful not to become involved in a race with another competitor who undoubtedly has different seasons goals to yourself.

Pick the right team

The endurance world is packed with people who support and encourage each other. Grow a network of therapists, athletes, coaches, friends and loved ones that you can turn to when needed. This includes a race day support team to cheer you on!

Prepare for everything

Use your time to practice training in conditions that reflect the race course if possible. Practice different hydration and feeding strategies and kit and prepare for contingency plans in case things go better or worse than planned on race day.

Be consistent, but flexible

Consistency is the key to endurance sport success. Stick to your plans, commit to the regime. However, life gets in the way sometimes and other commitments can side track you. Don’t chase the missed sessions, don’t cram extra miles into subsequent sessions. If you are training correctly 80% of the time, then you will almost certainly achieve your goals. It is better to line up at the start line, slightly “undercooked” than “overcooked”.


This is often the single biggest factor that is neglected and ultimately leads to injury. It is the fine balance between stressing the body and allowing it to recover. Eat well, sleep well, hydrate and enjoy down time with friends and family – you will be earning it. Much debate exists regarding the effectiveness of tools such as foam rollers / trigger point devices, tapes, massage, compression clothing, cryotherapy and heat, and yes there will always be a large placebo effect to consider. But as long as you are training and recovering well, then these tools can help.

And remember……… whatever your goal, whatever your level, however many marathons you have completed……enjoy it, it’s fun!

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You can read the full article on the SportsInjuryFix website here

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