Advice, Guides & Inspiration

Top 6 ultra and marathon injuries and how to deal with them

Running

Running 26 miles or more will put a huge amount of stress and pressure on your body and if you don’t play your cards right, it could leave you in a pretty sorry state. Follow these tips and tricks to prevent some common long distance running injuries.


Blisters

It’s near impossible to finish a big running campaign without getting a few nasty blisters. Running all those miles is bound to put some heart callouses and some painful blisters all over your feet. Blisters can do damage to your race since they can throw off your gait and change the way the run.

What to do — When you first feel a blister coming, stop and try to cover the area with a gel bandage or blister plaster to stop it getting worse. If a blister has already properly developed, the best thing to do is sterilise the area, drain the fluid from the blister and then cover it with a bandage or a pad (something that won’t stick to the blister itself).


Chafing

The bane of almost every athletes life; chafing is caused by skin rubbing against skin. On top of that, adding salt from sweat makes the whole ordeal that bit more painful and raw. The chief chafe points are your underarms, your nipples, under-breast are, groin and between the thighs.

What to do — Once you’ve found what areas you personally chafe in, either keep them dry with baby powder or cornstarch, or lubricate them with petroleum jelly to reduce the abrasion. People who don’t run in bras should try and cover their nipples with adhesive bandage to stop nipple chafing which can be incredibly painful.

Some events will provide petroleum jelly at water stops. If they do, make the most of this and lube up the areas where you chafe.


Dehydration

In your training, you should have been able to work out how your body deals with water and keeping fluids on board. If you find you sweat a lot then this is a sign that you need to keep taking water in fairly frequently to counter act the fluids being lost. Dehydration can be dangerous when it comes to endurance exercise. Your body will be using up a large amount of water so its very important to replenish your water supplies. Signs of dehydration include dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth, headache, irritability and decreased urination.

What to do — Probably the easiest solution on this list: drink water. If you feel like you’re becoming dehydrated, slow down or stop and drink some water. Marathons and ultramarathons will have plenty of water stops so you can keep hydrated so do make the most of them to prevent getting too dehydrated.


Heat exhaustion and heatstroke

More of a problem in summer races than winter ones, but a severe problem nonetheless. Heat exhaustion happens when someone exerts themselves too much when out in the sun or in hot weather. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, feeling sick, excessive sweating, pale and clammy skin, fast breathing or pulse and cramps. Heat exhaustion can then lead into heatstroke if you are not careful and heatstroke can be very dangerous and potentially life-threatening so if you’re feeling those symptoms, slow right down and have some water.

What to do — To prevent heat exhaustion, take it easy if you’re running in the sun. Don’t push yourself too hard and make sure you’re taking on lots of water. Wear a hat to try and keep your head and face cool and protected from the sun.


Muscle cramps

You’ll often hear of runners complaining about cramps during a marathon or ultramarathon. They don’t hit too often, but when they do they can put a runner in a huge amount of pain. Cramps can occur if you haven’t stretched and warmed up properly or if you’re dehydrated and experiencing salt depletion.

What to do — Stop and start to stretch and massage the cramping muscle until the pain stops. Drink some water or a sports drink to replace your fluids and salts to prevent it from happening again on your run.


Strains, sprains and stress fractures

If there’s a big clash of runners or after several hours on the course, it is possible that you could experience a sprained ankle or a pulled muscle. Any sharp, sudden pains that don’t feel like muscle cramps are likely going to be one of the above.

What to do — If you feel any kind of sharp pain, flag it up, don’t hide it. Tell whoever you’re running with, tell a course volunteer and just stop. There’s no point making it worse just to finish the race.