Traditionally speaking, Fall kicks off marathon season. This is the time of year when major marathons and half marathons start to pop up on the race calendar. For many people, it is an exciting time when they get to put their training to the test and participate in something challenging to get outside their comfort zone.
There is also an added excitement for marathon season this year given that it will be the first year since the pandemic that major races like the NYC, Chicago, and London will finally welcome the usual number of racers and spectators after two years of reduced participation.
Unfortunately, more people running marathons will likely also mean more people flocking to sport medicine clinics to deal with the vast array of injuries associated with long-distance running. It is estimated that 30% of runners training for a marathon will suffer some kind of injury, and 15% will actually never make it to the starting line of their races because of it.
Achilles tendonitis, runner’s knee, shin splints, and plantar fascitis are just a few common ailments that runners often experience in the lead-up to their race. This is a big problem for a couple of reasons. First off, it can be disappointing to dedicate all that time and effort to your training just to hit a frustrating roadblock like an injury that holds you back from accomplishing your goals.
But most importantly, running is often the gateway drug for people who are finally ready to incorporate regular exercise into their routine. Because running is so easily accessible, many sedentary people will choose to run as their first means of activity when they finally decide to turn a new leaf on their health journey. Joining a gym or taking a fitness group class can be incredibly intimidating, so usually, an exercise beginner will throw on an old pair of shoes and just start running.
Running works best as part of a balanced fitness plan
This is why the high rate of injury associated with running is such a big problem. A motivated beginner will start to run, but because running is so accessible and usually done without any coach supervision, it is very easy to do too much too soon. This leads to injury, which often discourages a beginner, and sets them back to their sedentary ways.
But marathon runners are hardly fitness beginners. Why is the injury rate so high among seasoned marathon runners and beginners? Aside from how easy it is to do too much too soon, there is also something about the repetitive nature of long-distance running that contributes to the likelihood of injury.
If you do a lot of running and nothing else, you will strengthen and strain specific muscles and ligaments without ever strengthening or straining other muscles and ligaments. This leads to imbalances, which eventually lead to injury.
The key takeaway? Whether you are an exercise novice or a fierce fitness weekend warrior, running can be a great form of exercise. With so many marathons and half marathons to choose from, it is also a great way to find a goal to train for, which can keep you motivated and disciplined to stay on track.
However, it is a very repetitive movement that often lends itself to overuse injuries if you are not careful. If you are going to do a lot of running, make sure you incorporate some strength and mobility training to balance things out. The last thing you want is to end up sidelined and sedentary because of an injury you could have avoided.
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