Home Running Marathon Training Marathon training: Discerning the difference between soreness and injury.

Marathon training: Discerning the difference between soreness and injury.

IMG_4955The Boston Marathon is officially 13 days away!!!

During marathon training most if not all runners will experience aches and “growing pains” (as my dad liked to call them). In a way feeling sore and tired is to be expected. When you start lifting weights at the gym your muscles are often tight and sore the next day. Over time your muscles recover, the soreness fades and you get stronger. It’s safe to assume that something similar is occurring to your body during marathon training; your entire cardiovascular system will experience periods of soreness and fatigue among other aches and pains as it adjusts to the added weekly mileage. The reality is that you are pushing your body farther and harder than it has ever gone before and at times it’s going to push back!



Doesn’t this look beautiful?? Little do you know I just finished a track workout and can’t move. 🙂

During my 20 weeks of marathon training I expect to experience the following: 

  • Tight calves (always!)
  • Tightness in the lower back during peak weeks (an indicator that I need to incorporate more core & lower body strength training)
  • Fatigue during first 20 min of runs- At the height of training takes my body about 15 min to warm up on the run. My early mile splits are often a full minute slower than my typical pace.
  • The spontaneous desire to stretch in public places – I will often feel so tight throughout the day that I have found myself stretching in the grocery line, before picking Lillian up from school and at work. Whoops!
  • Tired feet on long runs- We’re not basking in sun on a raft in a lazy river IT’S 20+ MILES PEOPLE! It’s marathon training. Your feet will be tired by the end of your long run. You shouldn’t have bleeding feet or excessive blisters but they will be tired.
  • Difficulty walking down stairs post long run/tough runs. When I finish my long runs (18+ miles) my legs are often so tired that it can be difficult to lift them to step into the house. I have crawled into the kitchen floor to just lay down with a stupid smile on my face. The rest of the day will be spent shuffling around the apartment/snoozing on the couch/icing my sore knees. Some runs are tougher than others, but I expect to be sore/tired!

Bottom line: 

  • Expect FATIGUE, SORENESS & TIRED FEET during marathon training. 

Please note that at no point did I say that you should expect PAIN. Marathon training will cause a sore, stiff, tired body but you should not be experiencing shooting pain! It is the marathoners challenge to determine the difference between a sore body with little tweaks and twinges along the way AND a body on the brink of injury.


  • Do not run through pain. If you are experiencing pain that is higher than a 3/10 then STOP RUNNING. Take a rest day and consult with your coach on how to adjust the training plan.


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Battling a tight hamstring during Salem Black Cat 10 miler.

I have been experiencing this strange tightness in my right leg for most of the training cycle. The pain RARELY gets above a 3/10. In fact its not really a pain, but a tightness where I feel like the hamstring is being pulled so tight that it somehow messes with my stride. Once the tightness manifests it becomes painful and uncomfortable if I do not stop to stretch the leg. It typically only appears when I am doing speedwork an runs with intensity (awesome sauce, right? ughhh). On a positive note I NEVER experience pain or tightness when I’m not running and I am still able to run pain-free at a slower pace.

After several weeks of pure denial I ran the Black Cat 10 miler race and HAD TO STOP in the middle of the race to stretch. WHAAAAAT! This has NEVER ever happened to me! I could no longer deny that something strange is going on in my leg so off to physical therapy I went.  I have been going to Spaulding Rehabilitation located in my very own Quincy YMCA!! I have been seeing an awesome physical therapist, Jorge who have been specially trained in run mechanics. Jorge videotaped me from three angles and reported the following:

  • It seems that I am overstriding during the run (poor running mechanics). Due to overstriding I am heel striking and placing undue stress on my hamstring when it is stretched – so much so that there is a patch of scar tissue on my right hamstring. Sadness.
  • I have weak hips, glues, core… basically point to a part of my body and it’s apparently frail, fatigued and on the brink of injury if I continue to train without making some key adjustments. Super awesome news. This body is weak and needs TLC…. well TLC in the form of a serious strength training regime

Since we are less than 2 weeks away from the Boston Marathon Jorge and I have agreed to focus on just stretching out the calves, hip flexors and hamstrings twice a week to mediate any current risk of injury.


What does this mean??

It means that I’m not officially injured YET. But if I don’t make some serious adjustments to my training then I will go down the path of having an overuse injury. Well we can’t have that can we!?

So, after the Boston Marathon it looks like both me and the post-Coughlin Giants will be in a rebuilding year. Instead of focusing on taking on new challenges and pushing myself harder and longer I am strongly leaning towards taking the summer/fall to focus on the fundamentals: strength training, run mechanics and maintaining my endurance.

I spy with my little eye a Fall Half Marathon in my future 🙂

Never Stop Running,


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