What If I Get Injured During Marathon Training?

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“I’m training for a marathon and I’m worried about getting injured when the mileage gets higher.  What will happen if I’m injured at some point?”  - About.com reader

Getting injured is a common concern for marathoners-in-training.  You’re putting in a lot of miles getting ready for a 26.2-mile race, and all the training could lead to overuse injuries, especially if you’re not good about getting adequate rest and taking injury prevention steps.

Most overuse injuries respond well to the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) and clear up after a few days of treatment. Take a couple of days off from running -- it may be all you need to heal your injury. You’re not going to lose any fitness if you miss a few days of training, so you should be able to get right back to your training schedule.

However, you may find yourself dealing with an injury that requires some more time off and treatment from a physical therapist or other health care professional. You’ll know that you should get an injury checked out if you’ve been dealing with the pain for 10-14 days and you’re seeing little or no improvement. Your doctor or physical therapist can give you a plan for continuing to build your fitness and endurance (usually through safe cross-training exercises that won’t aggravate your pain) while you’re rehabbing the injury. He or she will also give you recommendations for a slow, safe return to running when you’re ready.

  In many cases, runners can continue on with their training and still complete the marathon without any issues. So don’t assume that a mid-season injury will put your marathon finish in jeopardy.

Keep in mind that an injury in the middle of your training may mean that you need to adjust your race goals.

Trying to stick to an aggressive race goal may lead to re-injury during training or some major disappointment on race day. Be realistic and remember that completing a marathon, especially after coming back from an injury, is an incredible accomplishment.

What If I Have to Defer?

Of course, there are times when serious injuries, such as stress fractures, require too much recovery time for you to be able to return to your marathon training. Getting injured very close to race day may also mean it's not safe to attempt the marathon. If that’s the case, most races will allow you to defer your race entry to the following year. It can be very disappointing to have to defer a marathon, so don’t be surprised if you’re feeling very emotional and down. Try to focus on other aspects of your life outside of running and use the time you would have spent training to do other things you enjoy, like traveling or spending time with friends and family.

Another positive step would be to pick another race (a shorter one) that you can safely train for, once you’re recovered from your injury, and put it on your calendar.

Having another goal to focus on will take the emphasis away from the deferred marathon.

On the bright side, since you had already started the training, you'll be more prepared and know what to expect when you train next year. You'll start your marathon training much stronger physically and mentally. And crossing that finish line will be even more meaningful because of everything that you had to go through and overcome to get there.

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