Why I Got Injured
It's now been a week since my failed attempt to BQ at the Ogden Marathon on
May 4, 2002. I wanted to run a 3:35 (8:12 pace), the BQ time for men in the
55-59 age group (I'm 57), but between mile 13 and 14, I felt a sudden sharp pain
the area where the Achilles tendon attaches to the calf muscle. I continued
running, some miles fast and some miles slow, for the next 8 miles until the
pain made it absolutely impossible for me to run. So at mile 22, while still on
pace to BQ and still feeling strong and fit in every way except the
excruciatingly painful lower calf muscle, I threw in the towel and walk-jogged
the rest of the way in, to finish in 3:53:09 (my official chip time).
Injuries Don't Just Happen
As I've hobble around the last few days, trying to recover from my injury (a
muscle tear in the right calf, not a ruptured Achilles tendon as I first
feared), I've been thinking of all the reasons why I felt so strong and fit and
yet got injured. Here is a list of things I did wrong that might have led to my
injury. I publish them here so you can avoid a similar fate.
- Two weeks before the marathon, I removed cushion inserts from running
shoes because I was getting blisters on my little toes. Removing the insert
solved the problems of blistered and bloodied toes, but it also meant that
the heal was 1/8 to 1/4 inch lower than for most of my training,
which meant that I was stretching the Achilles and calf muscles more than
Rule #1: Don't
make changes in your shoes within the last month or two before the marathon.
- Also in an effort to solve the toe blister problem, I stopped wearing
thick athletic sox and started wearing thin, anti-blister running sox. Even
though I'm convinced that thinner sox are better, I should not have made the
change within two weeks of the marathon. Rule #2:
Don't make changes in the type of sox you wear either.
- I had been experiencing a sore left hamstring for about a month. I
cut back my training a little bit, but probably not enough. The hamstring
wasn't sore on the day of the marathon, but it might have been a little
tight. So to maintain marathon pace, I probably understrided with my left
leg and overstrided with my right leg, putting additional stress on the
Achilles and calf muscle.
Rule #2: If your
marathon training causes an injury, cut back training immediately and treat the
Rule #3: It's
better to cut back on your training and hope that the previous or subsequent
training is sufficient rather than keep training hard and hope that the injury
won't end up bothering you.
- At the starting line the morning of the marathon, the temperature was
about 35 degrees F. As I waited in line, I started to shiver uncontrollably.
To keep warm, therefore, I did a bunch of jumping jacks, which puts stress
on the cold calf muscles. Doh!
Rule #4: Warm up
by doing normal running, not by doing jumping jacks.
- I ran the first two miles of the marathon at a 7:47 pace, 25 seconds per
mile faster than my marathon pace. As it turned out, I still had plenty of
fitness at the end, so these fast miles at the beginning didn't cause me to
hit the Wall, but they might have put too much stress on my leg muscles and
Rule #5: Start
the marathon at your projected marathon pace. If you feel good toward the end of
the marathon, pick up the pace then.
- Worried that I'd needed every ounce of energy I had, I didn't want to
"waste energy" warming up before the race started. I now realize
that I should have had confidence in my fitness, and warmed up for a mile
before the race. That not only would have solved my problem of doing jumping
jacks, but also got my body ready to run 7:47 for the first two miles.
Rule #6: Warm up
before the start of the marathon.
Rule #7 (Someone
sent this one to me): Don't get old.
Comments on these six rules would be greatly appreciated.
--Scott Zimmerman (firstname.lastname@example.org)