I was warned when I started running multiple marathons that I would always have some aches and pains. My knees and legs would hurt and although it was rarely anything serious they would be an ever present feature of my life. The people who told me this weren’t wrong. My knees alternate between the good and the bad, sometimes it hurts on the left and sometimes the right. My calves are perpetually tight and every now and again there is a twinge across the sole of my foot. I just take it as it comes and on the whole after a couple of miles running the niggles go away.
It maybe stupid but I have learnt to ignore most of the small pains I get and running more often helps. Eventually they ease off and there is no harm done. The usual pattern goes something like this.
Mile 1) this is a silly idea, I have a major injury here, this hurts so much my leg is about to fall off. I’m going to stop if it still hurts in another mile.
Mile 2) That’s a bit easier it’s not quite as bad as I thought, I reckon I could get another couple of miles done on this I’ll just cut a few miles off the end of the run if it still hurts then.
Mile 3) Oh that’s better just getting in my stride, I can probably finish the run slowly as the pain is almost gone now.
Mile 4 on ) Pain what pain?
Of course sometimes when I stop I get a joint moaning about the exercise afterwards, and rarely a twinge as I climb the stairs but, in general a bit of ice, rest and foam rolling and the jobs a good’n.
When I was really worried over christmas I went to a physio and they more or less told me that I needed to do some specific exercises to target muscles which were not strong enough. It was a relief to discover that I hadn’t, twisted, ripped, torn, broken or otherwise destroyed anything. I did the exercises and the pain cleared. This weekend the other knee went in a completely unexpected fashion. I had just stopped to check the route and as I started out again my knee seized up leaving me limping for half a mile. I had not done anything particularly different, it went at about mile 8 or 9 and I wasn’t running particularly fast. OK there were hills involved but nearly all my training involves hills somewhere down the line. Again I’ve been recomended some exercises, I iced it, and got the foam roller out and will probably continue to run until it clears up. Even though it felt more serious than the standard niggles I really don’t want to know anything more, becasue knowing is sometimes worse than just struggling through.
Occasionaly like almost everyone else I look on the internet when things hurt. I go through the lists of symptoms trying to diagnose the issue. The trouble is it can become something fixed in your head. Far from finding an answer it can just mean that you spend your whole time training trying to spot it. While you have no label for your twinge it becomes something that is not important, it can be safely ignored. You might feel it while you are out and about but running through it is not something you have been advised against. While a pain is nameless there is a chance that running through it will make it better. Once it has a name there are things that you should do, there are symptoms to look out for there is a whole medicalised mindset which colours every aspect of your running.
A friend was recently diagnosed with a form of arthritis in his knees. Now being a keen runner this was not really very good but the pain was not the worst part, much worse was what it did to his head. Sometimes the knee hurts, on other days he can get by with no problems at all, however on the days with no pain something else happens. He confessed while out for a long run, 15 or 16 miles he started worrying that he had not felt the pain. At mile 14 or so he suddenly realised that there had been no tweaks and niggles and from that point on every step was being analysed for any trace of the arthritis. It’s enough to drive you mad and certainly not beneficial for sticking to any kind of training plan. That is why, for good or ill I will always run through most of my niggles. Until of course my leg drops off, or worse.