Running an injury-free marathon. Tips from Dr. Kevin Yip (Orthopedic Surgeon)

Running often gets labelled as a high-injury sport. Statistics show that 30 to 50% of all runners get knee pain from running every year. And this is besides the ligament tears and hamstring injuries that marathon enthusiasts face while participating in year-round running events that happen in Singapore.

So, what can we do to avoid the risk of injury and at the same time conquer marathon distances safe, sound and with flying colours?

How to prepare for the long run

We had a chat with Dr Kevin Yip, an experienced orthopaedic specialist who is an also avid marathon runner himself. And he aptly categories the journey into 3 logical phases — Pre run (Before), During the run and Post run (After) phase. Each phase will have its own set of the planning and precautions to be adhered so as to keep the body in good shape.

1. Pre-Run Phase

Plan and prepare for a distance that your body is comfortable with. Not everyone can run a full marathon to start with. Discouraging as it may sound it takes time and effort to bring one’s body to a level it can endure the distance.

If you have never run before then aim for 5 km first. For newbies who want to start preparing can begin with a half hour brisk walk and then progress to one hour. In two to three weeks switch to a 15 min run and 15 min walk.

The idea is to gradually increase the mileage by maybe 10 to 15% per week and raise the body’s stamina and endurance level. So, it takes a long time to reach the level of 42 km.

Having a training plan and committing to it is thus necessary if you want to attempt a full marathon.

2. During the Run

Before beginning the actual run, some food an hour before start time is ok. Drinking water is also ok contrary to the common concern that it may lead to visiting the toilet (which may be hard to access at the venue). Actually, body can hold water and it will also be absorbed as you sweat during the run.

Stretching before the run to warm up is quintessential. But we must ensure all parts involved are warmed up. For e.g. not just calf muscles but also abdomen muscles, shoulder blades, etc. Just like a rubber band that snaps at its weakest spot even though other points can stretch and flex well.

Wear proper footwear. It should be something that fits your foot contours well and provides good padding for the impact that your foot would endure during the run.

During the run hydration every 2 kms is recommended (that is how the water stations are also stationed)

Sports drink or energy bar can be taken after an hour in the run….so that’s only needed after you have covered the half-way mark (20 km onwards)

Aches, pains are apparent in the first half hour at times due to fatigue in knees and other joints but will usually disappear. So, one must just endure and if the level of your body stamina has built up during the training period it will see you through. Aches and pains may also recur when going up the slope or running on a gradient. So, if you feel it coming again then best advice is to slow down and continue.

After a while it’s a lot of mind over matter that drives you towards the finishing line.

3. Post Run

Recovering phase after the marathon can be easily overlooked. Most of the time the soreness and fatigue will vanish after a while. However, to help facilitate the body back to the normal state it’s good to replenish your muscle energy and fluids. Sports drink, bananas or a protein rich meal would be ideal. It’s important to keep moving and walk a bit to enable a gradual cool down.

Organised marathon events may have a medical tent if one needs medical attention. Otherwise for the minor injuries like sprains the RICE technique (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) can provide quick relief.

Get Set and Go

Dr Yip quotes…

Treat exercising and fitness as an investment. With the body being one of the most rewarding assets that an individual can invest in and build for the long term. Exercising regularly even for small hours is like saving in your piggy bank. Over a period, it helps build strength and endurance giving a significant reward (like completing a full marathon)

Many a runner will attest that completing the 42 km distance is a mind game no matter how hard you train. But along with a sound mind one also needs a healthy body that is in the best condition and keeps up to the challenge without injuries. The above tips from an orthopaedic expert will surely help in achieving both the goals.

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