Posted by: David Stewart | April 24, 2010

The knees are OK, but what about everything else?

Dad was always convinced I would ruin my knees, forcing me into a life of arthritis and addiction to painkillers.

But this year, after 12 years of racing and marathons, he seemed to grudgingly concede that I don’t seem to be ruining my body.

Through the first 6 or 7 years of running, I enjoyed pretty much injury free running. There was that fall down the concrete stairs resulting in a sprain and a case of sore hamstrings. But generally I was happy and pain free.

Then, starting in 2005, I started ramping up my pace, cutting over 50 minutes off my race time by the end of 2006. This was the point I really started losing weight as well, ultimately resulting in 45 pounds of weight loss. Was it possible I could realize my dream of qualifying for Boston?

But in mid 2007, the inevitable happened. I over-trained, and had a major injury to the psoas which caused me to “DNF” in a race and knocked me off running for months. (This is commonly referred to as a “groin pull”) Earlier this year, I pulled a hamstring, which also cost me six weeks of training.

Today, I’m happy to say that I met my goal of qualifying for Boston, and I’m working on ramping up my speed even further, perhaps cutting another 10-13 minutes off my best pace. And even better, I seem to be running pretty much pain free.

Why the spate of injuries?

  • Lack of stretching. Although there is debate about whether stretching actually prevents injury (and improper stretching could actually exacerbate injury), I usually blew off the stretching before and after running. Tight muscles can lead to overcompensation in other muscles.
  • Ramping up the speed without being ready for it – I was warned, I was. The problem with increasing aerobic capacity before the muscles and ligaments are ready to take the added speed is that you are tempted to do too fast. Sure enough, the result was a hamstring injury.
  • Lack of core strength. Poor upper body and core muscle strength leads to poor posture and over-use.

Now I try to be careful to stretch, follow the speed advice of my coach and really work on my core strength continuously. But today as never before, I have to watch out for the specter of injuries, even if I don’t have arthritis in my knees.



  1. Great post. I too am told I will ruin my knees if I keep running. So far, so good.:) I am considering building up my miles and going for a PR in my marathon time. I will be sure to go slow. Thanks for the great advice.

  2. It’s a good idea to build up gradually to go for a marathon. If you live in a city with a USA Fit group, they are a great training organization with a fantastic system. Where I live in Portland, OR, we actually have four marathon training groups going on simultaneously.

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