Northernhay Clinic does Manchester Marathon 2023
I can’t say that I identify as a Runner. I’m not really built for distance running. But that didn’t stop me wanting to run a Marathon. In my late teens I suffered with a lot of lower limb pain. Every time I tried to run, I was met with pain and problems – maybe you can relate to this?. I had seen Physiotherapists, Osteopaths, Chiropractors – you name it. It wasn’t until my early twenties, when I saw Jonathan here at Northernhay Clinic that I saw any changes. Jon’s treatment completely transformed my ability to exercise meaningfully. It changed my life for the better while inspiring me to train and specialise in MSK Podiatry.
Having experienced lower limb pain as patient, I felt a Marathon presented a good opportunity for me to put myself further into the shoes of some of our patients.
There are 2 reasons that I set myself this challenge:
1. I wanted to try and put myself in the shoes of some of my patients while training and running this Marathon. We see people in clinic weekly who have certain running goals they want to achieve but are struggling to meet them due to pain or injury.
2. I also wanted to complete a Marathon before turning 30, hopefully in under 4 hours (so I wouldn’t have to do another one). I managed it 9 days before my birthday.
Running has never been my main form of exercise, but I can certainly see why people do it. Time spent outside, getting your steps in, destressing, unplugging, socialising, there are a whole load of potential benefits. Not to mention the ease of just putting your trainers on and heading out the door. You don’t have to turn up anywhere to get your exercise in, you just put one foot in front of the other. Easy, right?
Nothing about training for or running a Marathon is easy. I’d like to share my experience during training and the big day itself in the hope that it might help others on their journeys.
I didn’t start this with no running experience. I had run and trained for a few half marathons before, but as I said at the start, I am in no way a natural runner. The first thing I did was a little research on the right Marathon training programme. My main concern in all this being that I try to stay as ‘Injury Free’ as possible.
I used the Beginners Marathon Plan (from James Dunne at Kinetic Revolution – https://www.kinetic-revolution.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Beginners-Marathon-Plan-16-Weeks-v1.3.pdf). There were a few prerequisites advised by the training plan which I thought was sensible, but as I had already met those through my own running I could start straight away.
Northernhay Clinic at Manchester Marathon Tip 1. Leave yourself plenty of time for training. The plan I used is 16 weeks long and you may need a month or even two beforehand to meet any prerequisites.
Quite early in the training plan I realised the following:
If you want to run a Marathon, ask yourself “Am I prepared to give up a lot of my time and other activities?”. As the distances and time spent running started creeping up, I realised that my other favourite activities (climbing, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, and my own gym training) were going to have to take a back seat. I was committed to the cause and I made this choice, but if you (like me) like to take part in a host of different sports and activities, you’ll have to accept that these will likely be put on hold, especially in the last 8 weeks of training.
Northernhay Clinic at Manchester Marathon Tip 2. If a Marathon is your goal, prioritise it. Accept that it will take a lot of your time and energy. Following a training plan is essential. I wore my Custom Foot Orthoses in a pair of Asics Glideride Trainers and was lucky enough to avoid injury.
In my clinical practice, I often see cases of ‘too much, too soon’, often after ‘too little, for too long’. Significant spikes in loading, especially with running, increase your risk of developing lower limb injury. With an appropriate training plan, you’ll see that usually 75% of your runs will be performed at an easy, conversational pace. 3 out of your 4 weekly runs should not be overly taxing – if running with a friend you should be able to chat about your day without panting. Ensuring you stick to the easy paced runs and not getting carried away is very important – but we can all get carried away can’t we?. It can be easy to pick up the pace if you’re listening to music, if you’re running behind another runner or maybe you need to get home and get on with your life. The key here is tracking using a wearable or an app such as Strava. Try not to get bogged down in the data but check your pace and your heart rate at least to keep yourself on track.
I found Week 1 through to Week 8 of training to be fairly straightforward, once I had accepted just how much of my time it would take. My body was adapting well to the load with only the odd minor grumble from a knee or a hip. The key is knowing when a grumble becomes a niggle and when a niggle reoccurs enough to become an injury. Somehow I managed to stay injury free during my training. This is largely because I strictly adhered to my plan and was using supplementary activities such as Yoga to aid recovery. Ensuring I was eating 3 good meals a day, fuelling properly before and after runs, hydrating well and getting plenty of sleep!
Northernhay Clinic at Manchester Marathon Tip 3. It is often the things you do outside of your running time that will have the bigger say in terms of Injury development. Sleep, Stress & Nutrition are just as important as your mileage!
Know that it is normal to feel a little sore as your body adapts during your training. I’ve got to advise that you seek help if any part of you feels continually sore to the point where your training does not feel sustainable. Pain and injury can occur for so many different reasons. Seeing a Podiatrist (for any lower limb pain) or other professional can help you to identify why your injury may have occurred and (more importantly) what you can do about it.
As my training went on and distances grew and grew, I did start to notice some soreness and discomfort. At the end of my longest training run (20 miles) my knees felt like they had lost a fight with my ankles. My feet were sore, my right hip ached a little, even my shoulders were sore. I managed this with simple things like a hot bath and some stretching/mobility exercises in my Yoga practise. Whilst I had some muscle soreness, nothing stayed with me or made me feel like I shouldn’t run. Do ensure you give yourself a day or two to rest between runs, especially after any long runs.
Northernhay Clinic at Manchester Marathon Tip 4. Know when to make changes. If discomfort becomes pain, if a grumble becomes a niggle, then look to seek help from a professional.
Finally, the big day was upon me. The hydration was right, I’d slept well, my nutrition was on point. Living this for 16 weeks meant I had done all I could.
Here’s a break-down of how I felt as the race went on.
I’m flying – this feels great. 28,000 runners, 100,000 supporters, the atmosphere is electric. My brother and I went out pretty quickly, but we soon found our stride at around the 8:20 minute mile average.
My knees start to feel a bit stiff, nothing major but I start to notice some minor discomfort. The atmosphere helps me tune it out.
My right knee is getting sore now. The base of my Ilio-Tibial band at my right knee is gnawing at me every few strides. This is really starting to suck. My feet are aching, my ankles feel stiff. I’m starting to realise that a Marathon at 95kg is quite a big ask.
This is one of the hardest physical tasks I’ve ever undertaken. Each step feels like a punch to the front of the thigh at this stage. Then the dreaded cramp set in. There wasn’t much I could do but stop and stretch quickly. It was frustrating as I knew this would affect my time, but there was no other choice here. Stop, breath, stretch and back to it.
Mile 25 to 26.2:
Amidst my discomfort and the fight between my knees and my ankles, I hear somebody in the crowd shout “Get away from the 4-hour Pacer”. Sure enough, there was the 4-hour run pacer about 25 metres back. Our pace had dropped off over the last few miles. It’s true what they say about the last 6 miles being the hardest. We knew at this point we had to move.
At this point it is purely a mental game, but also a point where a lot of injuries are picked up. With the help of a copious amount of Jelly Babies, we found our starting pace and held that for the last mile until we crossed the line.
Northernhay Clinic at Manchester Marathon Tip 5. Remember why you are running this race. Keep that charity, promise, challenge or loved one at the forefront of your mind. Keep asking yourself what gets me across the line? I tried my hardest to be present throughout the day, to soak up the atmosphere and make sure this stays with me. As hard as it might be – enjoy it.
Perhaps you have been thinking about doing some running yourself but have been held back by lower limb pain? Maybe you’re aiming for couch to 5k, 10k, Marathon or you just want to go out for a run with the dog? Regardless, if you’re held back by lower limb pain please get in touch with our Team.
I think I’ll be back to the gym, in the pool or on my bike. One was enough for me.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog post. If you are struggling with lower limb pain and are thinking of starting to run please do get in touch:
Tel: 01392 259101