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Using Your Marathon Recovery to Prepare You for the Next Race

By Jessica Burchett, PT, DPT


On Saturday, October 11th, roughly 45,000 runners took part in the 2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The most prepared of these ambitious runners trained at least four and a half months in advance,
hoping to set a personal record, qualify for the Boston Marathon, or simply just cross the finish line. While running 26.2 miles takes mental fortitude, it also take a toll on the joints.  Runners flocked to medical professionals prior to the race with all sorts of pains, hoping to address their injuries prior to a successful run, but what about after the run?

I enjoyed working with a group of team runners both pre- and post-race. Pre-marathon, I helped runners work through knots of muscle tension and assisted with last-minute stretching. I gave my best efforts to alleviate pain and help runners go back out on the road to complete their races.  I am certain I treated a runner with a 4th metatarsal stress fracture who, against my recommendation, was adamant about running her first marathon. I taped up her foot to distribute pressure off the area in hopes of minimizing damage as she continued her run. Post-marathon, I saw many people limping, with bags of ice all over their bodies. I helped runners stretch muscles as best as I was able, knowing that I only had a limited amount of time to ease their pain.

Most seasoned runners know that if they have pain during a race, they will need to address it as soon as possible to avoid recurrence in a future run or developing compensations for an injured area through their daily movements.  However, after speaking with a few novice runners at the event, I quickly learned that these runners were not aware of how to handle their injuries and pains after the marathon.

Based on first-hand experience from my marathon last year, I can tell you without a doubt that these types of post-marathon pain must be addressed. Often runners feel leg pain and dismiss it in hopes it will resolve with time and rest.  However, even minor pains can create problems higher up the bone-and-joint chain that one doesn’t consider. For example, if you compensate for minor foot pain with other muscles and joints, you will create abnormalities in the way you walk or run and may result in cause complications at the knee or hip.

Rather than leave your  post-marathon recovery to chance and hope for the best, consider scheduling a complimentary 15-minute injury assessment with one of our physical therapists.  We can help you determine whether an ache or pain really will improve over time or needs more specialized care, such as consultation with a physician or treatment by a physical therapist.

A physical therapist will identify the areas of limitation, utilize techniques to improve mobility, and identify and address muscle imbalances of flexibility and strength to help make the marathoners return to running quickly and smoothly!

Jessica Burchett, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist at Lakeshore Sports Physical Therapy, PC, in Chicago, Illinois.  Complimentary Injury Screenings may be scheduled by calling (773) 665-9950.