Understanding pain in running

Recently I’ve been thinking about pain and how it appears in running. There is always the pain of pushing hard near the end of a race, but there is also pain of eating the wrong thing (or not enough). Some pain gets better if you run through it and some gets much worse. Running along a trail and twisting your ankle a little is a perfect opportunity to assess this. Sometimes, the ankle gets better if you keep running (and ice when you get home), other times, more running continues to aggravate the injury. The only way to know which one this is, is to try one approach and see if it’s correct. With experience, you get better at determining which one it is, but self-assessment is never perfect.

This question of which injuries we should run through and which we must not has been rattling around in the back of my head a lot lately. I’ve been dealing with two injuries for a couple of months. At first, I thought I could run through them. It soon became evident that these were not that type of injury. I cut back on my miles and the number of runs I did. I increased the amount of time I spent icing and slowly they began to heal.

Then a week ago, I read an article on irunfar.com  One of the take-aways from the article is that building this knowledge of what pain you can run through, what is “normal” pain, can be extremely helpful in long races. Several of the training runs they recommend are ones I already do, but my focus has been on putting in the miles to decrease the pain I feel while racing. After reading it, I’m now starting to take mental note of the pain and discomfort I feel; I’m building a pain catalog. And, although I haven’t done it yet, I’m thinking about trying some of the other training runs they mention like the carbohydrate depleted runs. The idea of skipping a meal before a run sounds dumb, but I understand the reasoning behind it. If you’re going to be low on calories during a long race, it might be a good idea to understand that feeling before race day. We’ll see how if I actually convince myself to do it.

Hopefully, going forward, I’ll be even better at determining what pain I can run through and what pain requires attention. Most important of all, hopefully I can get back to training for some races this winter.

  • How do you deal with pain on runs? Ignore it, stop running, catalog it, etc?
  • How good are you at determining which pains mean stop? Any tips?
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