In the wake of another London Marathon

April 30th, 2009 by Phil Brown

The clinic here on Anglesey was busy last week. I got to look at a lot of legs! Phone calls came in from various places in the locality as brave individuals from North Wales prepared to take themselves South to attempt a marathon. Most of the people I treated before last Sunday were attempting a marathon for the first time. Most of them were booking in for sports massage treatment at the last minute, to relieve aches and pains that had cropped up as a result of their training.

The clinic here on Anglesey was busy last week. I got to look at a lot of legs! Phone calls came in from various places in the locality as brave individuals from North Wales prepared to take themselves South to attempt a marathon. Most of the people I treated before last Sunday were attempting a marathon for the first time. Most of them were booking in for sports massage treatment at the last minute, to relieve aches and pains that had cropped up as a result of their training.

This got me thinking that for many who are training and entering a long distance race for the first time, it is not so easy to get the balancing act right between a training schedule, their family and work and actually making progress and avoiding injury. As I mentioned, most of the people I treated before the London Marathon had never run one before and a regular training schedule was something new to them. The aches and pains they were feeling were not only a result of the load they were placing on their bodies, but also a result of the overall stress that occurs when trying to fit such a schedule into a normal, daily living routine.

So, if you are considering training for a half or full marathon read on for some simple effective tips to keep you injury free and making progress in your training.


The type of shoes you wear when running is crucial. Running is not easy on the body. Good running shoes help absorb the repetitive shock of heel strike, particularly on hard concrete and tarmac. But thats not all. The shape of your foot is completely individual. The way the force from heel striking travels up your legs and through the knees, hips, spine, shoulders, neck and head is different depending on the shape of your foot as it hits the deck. Some people have a tendency to run on the inside edge of their feet. This tendency is known as pronating. Other runners tend to load weight on the outside edge. This is known as supinating. Still others have a neutral foot strike and others may strike the ground more with the ball of their foot.

Whatever type you are, FIND OUT! Go to a good sports store and get advice on the best type of shoe for you. By ‘a good sports store’ I mean one where there are assistants who actually run themselves. People who can watch you walking and running and are well practiced in analysing different gaits. Some stores have treadmills that the staff will get you running on, but what matters most is the experience and knowledge of the staff themselves.They should be able to recommend a good shoe with the right insoles if needed.

If you have an excessive tendency in your gait, you will need insoles to effectively change the shape of your foot in its contact with the ground. Sometimes, a referral to an orthotics clinic is needed, so that specialised insoles can be made to match your specific needs – for your everyday shoes as well as your running shoes. Your doctor should be able to provide a referral should you find you fit into this category.

If you are doing your training in a pair of shoes that are not right for your feet, you WILL EVENTUALLY GET INJURED!!!! There are no two ways about this. The problem can be that the build-up to injury can be slow and subtle. For example, a pronator in the wrong shoes will be continually overloading their flexor tendons as they ‘toe-off’ with each stride. This continual loading will eventually lead to the tendons becoming inflamed, tight and painful. This condition, which is known as tendinopathy, is chronic and takes time to get rid off. It can sometimes hamper training to the point where you have to stop altogether while the condition clears up. it is so much wiser, at the start of your training adventure, to get proper advice and find the right type of shoes for you.


The aches and pains that the people I worked with before the marathon were suffering from were the result of training. This is normal. You cannot train for a long distance race without some niggles. Particularly if, as many of the entrants in this year’s London Marathon, fitness has never been a priority in your lifestyle.

Training takes its toll on your body. But when done right, this toll is the thing that causes changes to occur in your body. Changes that make it fit for the purpose you are pursuing. But you have to be smart and learn to listen to your body. This is difficult for many, particularly those for whom physical training is a new thing.

Many of us have an idea of training that comes from watching too many training montages in Rocky movies. We think that if we are not tired and not in pain and anguish, we aren’t training hard enough. This is a wrong, destructive view of training. Although training should be difficult at times, for many of us as newbie runners, consistency is the key.

Aim to build up gradually. Focus on building your ability to run well over distance without worrying about time. If you are training for your first distance run, make your aim to finish in good FORM, rather than time and the time will take care of itself.  Your form is the level of control, poise and balance with which you are able to run over distance. When new to training, try to keep within a level of effort that allows you to remain feeling strong and stable for the large part of each training session. Once you have spent a couple of months building a strong foundation of good form and some endurance, you can start to push a bit harder at times in your schedule. Remember, if you have not made regualr training of any sort part of your life before, you need to focus on this foundation primarily. In your first distance race, to finish well is to finish running.

In my experience, we men are the worst at getting our training right. We overtrain. We do too much over a long period of time and then BAM!, we call up a sports injury therapist a week before the race because suddenly we cannot walk straight let alone run.

Here’s a good test to see if you are the type to overtrain: If you are worried you are not training hard enough, you are probably training too much!

There are loads and loads of different schedules and plans out here on the internet and in various books and magazines. Read around and find a few that look suitable for you. Once you start your training, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!!!! JUST BECAUSE SOME SO-CALLED EXPERT IS TELLING YOU THAT THIS SCHEDULE IS THE WINNER, IT DOESN’T MEAN IT IS RIGHT FOR YOU!!! Mix and match and try different approaches, but whatever you do, keep focusing on building distance gradually and running well. If your are new to running, forget your time. Concentrate on CONSISTENCY and QUALITY.


You will suffer from aches and pains. You are asking your body to do alot more than it is used to. It will get used to it, but it will complain too. These niggles are because you are actually getting injured! Not the kind of injuries that mean you have to stop training, but tiny injuries in the muscle tissues that occur as you put slight and repetitive overload on them. This overload is part of what causes your muscles, joints and ligaments to adapt to the added jobs being asked of them. Muscles respond to stress by getting stronger! They will adapt to the job at hand by increasing in size and changing shape and density in response to the overload. But this change will only occur effectively if you allow the tissues to REST. During rest, the muscles recover and grow to meet the demands of the next session. Any minor aches and pains will have a chance to heal and then you will be ready for the next training run. Overtraining and chronic fatigue syndromes are a common thing hampering progress. Remember that progress is made while RESTING as well as training.

Some of you will need much more rest between sessions than others. The 40 year old man with 3 children, a full time job and limited spare time will need to have more rest since his energy is already being spent in the normal demands of life! The 22 year old single woman with a part time waitress job may have more energy and more time on her hands. She may find she can train more often and get results. Whatever your situation, be realistic and tailor your training accordingly.

If your aches and pains are not going away before the next training session, its sure sign you are not resting long enough and you are on the way to a more serious, chronic injury.

If you find you are feeling tired and down and not looking forward to the next run, you are not getting enough rest.

If you are getting colds and feeling below par more often, you are not getting enough rest.

If you find your progress has stopped and you are not performing in your training as well as you were, you need more rest.


A number of people phoned Phil Brown Massage within 3 or 4 days of the London Marathon last week. Some were complaining of calf pain or knee pain at this very late stage in their training. It was a pleasure to provide useful treatment for each, but I also felt how useful I could have been for them if I had met them earlier. Regular massage and soft tissue therapy has a dramatic effect on recovery time between training sessions. The aches and pains we often carry with us into the next session can be caused by tight overworked tissues adhering to each other and hampering movement in a joint such as the knee or the ankle. Deep tissue massage and specialised stretching techniques can free these tissues and restore freedom of movement and relief tightness and pain. Professional athletes are benefitting from regular sports massage that keeps them free from injury and performing to the best of their ability. Massage has a great effect. If you are trying to maintain a progressive training schedule, then find a good bodyworker or sports masseur and invest in the body you are using!


There is nothing that beats sharing your training with someone else. Having someone next to you who can encourage you and point things out to you that you may miss otherwise is priceless. And you can do the same for them. Training for distance can be lonely and at times boring. Having a training ‘buddy’ to work with can push you further and make the whole experience more enjoyable. Find someone who has similar aims for the event as you and someone who is not too far from your level of fitness.

When you start out, another good option is to find a good personal trainer to get you going and provide you with a start-up schedule and come running with you. A good trainer will be able to recognise your strengths and weaknesses both physically and mentally and help you develop a tailor-made training programme that will enable you to achieve your goals and not wear you out doing it.

Please call Phil Brown for more advice about smart training. If you are considering a new training schedule and are new to the sport you are considering, we have plenty of advice and treatment available here at Phil Brown Massage. There are also loads of tips and advice here at the website. Feel free to browse.

Happy training!!

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