When You Get Injured Right Before Your Taper
A note from Morgan Mowers, PT, DPT
Injuries happen. Sometimes you can do everything right– ramp up mileage slowly, do all the strength training, prioritize sleep, and swap out your shoes as recommended – but still end up with an injury. You never know when you’ll step wrong (like me), overdo it on just one rep, or somehow bump into someone and trip. Being injured at any time is frustrating, but there’s fewer times more agonizing than right before the taper.
This season, I set my sights on the Philadelphia Marathon. I had some big goals that were feeling so close within reach as the weeks went on. Training was going as well as I could imagine, and I was making sure to do all of those little things I recommend for my patients to stay healthy. But one day, after a few nights of poor sleep and at the high hormone phase of my menstrual cycle, I misstepped a bit while turning a corner on a tempo run. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but in the days to come, I noticed some minor pain in my hip every time I ran.
As the pain continued, I thought to myself “what would I tell a patient to do?”
1- Gentle activations for supporting musculature, mobilizing stiff tissues, strengthening weak tissues. ✅
2- Use pain as a guideline: Is my pain above a 2 out of 10? Does it get worse while running? Is my form changing due to pain? Does it get worse after running? Nope. ✅
3- Cross-training ✅
4- Emphasizing recovery, sleep, and nutrition. ✅ ✅ ✅
Despite my best efforts to fight off this injury, after about a week, it got worse. When I once again asked myself what I would tell a patient, there were two resounding answers:
1- Stop running. Ugh, fine.
2- Get this checked out by both a colleague and an orthopedist…
So I did. And the MRI wasn’t pretty. But something I totally could run through, despite severe pain. But again, what would I tell a patient?
Sometimes it is simply not worth it. Risking the health of your body long-term and your ability to continue to run for years to come is at risk. You might even end up with a different injury from compensating. Plus, with an injury, you’re unlikely to achieve that goal you set and worked towards, and are less likely to achieve it in the future if this becomes a chronic issue. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but checking your ego and dropping out is sometimes the answer.
But what I’d also say is: enjoy it anyway. Go to that race, cheer for your friends. Celebrate their success, and take it all in. Scope out the course if you want to do it next year. Just because you can’t run doesn’t mean it can’t be an amazing day. And then, set new goals – both short term and long term. Focus on getting strong. Get excited for a new race so that you have motivation to progress through rehab and get healthy. And then, when you’re able to finally run your race, it will feel so, so sweet. Because not only did you wait until your body was ready to accomplish this feat, you overcame so much to get there. And if you pushed through that injury you might not have been able to.
If you’re injured and had to drop your marathon this year, I understand this frustration first-hand. But I’m here to help you get strong and ready to come back stronger than ever next spring.
PS– See you on April 23 at the Jersey City Marathon 😉