Marathoners, avoid twisted ankles and firing cannons | Bleader

Marathoners, avoid twisted ankles and firing cannons



Somethings pulled, for sure
Much of marathon running is about avoiding injury and ailment along the way. Unless you're willing to hop a bus to the finish line, your chances of winning the race (or even finishing third) are slim, so go ahead and skip the delusions of grandeur. Instead, it's best to concentrate on the little victories, like pacing yourself and dodging ankle sprains and shin splints and vomiting. I ran the Chicago Half Marathon last month and saw a runner red-faced and hunched over, puking her guts out not more than three miles into the race. My bet is she didn't finish.

As a first time half-marathon runner in 2011, I needed advice on ways not to hurt myself. Though I had learned years ago how not to stick a fork in a plugged-in toaster and how to not lift with my back but with my knees, I still wasn't well-versed in the art of running stupid-long distances without having my body fall apart—my regular runs at the time usually averaged around five miles in length. So I walked into the Fleet Feet in Old Town and asked a marathon runner for some tips.

And earlier this year, as she was in the midst of training for her first full marathon, Sarah Phillips of the Guardian decided to ask a host of specialists and experts for advice on how to avoid the pains associated with running 26.2 miles (or 42.195 kilometers). She got answers from a physiotherapist, a few accomplished marathon runners, a podiatrist, a nutritionist, and a gait specialist—and she was likely better off than she would have been otherwise.

But advice can't always save the prepared marathon runner from a freak occurrence. Chicago's very first marathon in 1977—one that a 23-year-old Steve Bogira ran (and walked) with ease*—actually only began with a "ready" and a "set." The "go" was delayed because when Sis Daley pulled the small cannon's lanyard to signal the start of the race, nothing happened. The more than 4,200 runners went ahead anyway, with wide-eyed dreams of two-and-a-half-hour finish times and non-tweaked hamstrings. Five minutes after the race began, however, the cannon misfired, injuring three runners and sending them to the hospital with powder burns. They were all OK, but my bet is they didn't finish.

A lesson is to be learned here, I think. Training diligently for weeks, eating right, and lacing up a brand-spanking new (but not too brand-spanking new) pair of running shoes is all well and good, but injury can still strike in the strangest of ways. Right now the always-wrong is telling me that Sunday is going to clock in at 53 degrees with a 10 percent chance of rain. So go ahead and eat that pasta dinner and get a good night sleep, but please be wary of lightning strikes and plagues of locusts come the day of the marathon.

Read more from Marathon Week, this week's Variations on a Theme:

"Losing at everything," by Julia Thiel
"How I won the marathon*," by Steve Bogira