Why and How to Plan for a Running Injury

If I consider what I would do if I got a running injury my instinct would be to “push through the pain”. Perhaps reduce my volume or intensity, or both. But stopping my running altogether would be my last option. I’m a runner, after all. Therefore, I must keep running.

In the past I believed I was fortunate to not be affected by injury. I always ran. Only now I know I simply “pushed through the pain”. Luckily, I was able to keep adjusting my training and my races were largely unaffected. Then in the summer of 2017 I had my first serious injury. A hip bursitis on one side left me unable to walk without significant pain. I healed relatively quickly and was able to still run my seventh marathon that autumn. Within 6 months another injury beset my ambitions – MTSS. Although I achieved my goal of running my first ever sub-5-minute-mile, the remainder of the year was adversely affected.

The main cause for both injuries was over-training. My ambitions (and motivations) were higher than the training load my body could cope with. I didn’t quite get the balance of stress and recovery right, and I paid the price with physical discomfort and psychological disappointment.

Although I dealt with the hip bursitis well enough, I tried my best to run through my shin pain. This was a mistake. The major problem was simple – I had no plan for such an eventuality.

Kate Avery, the 27-year-old British cross-country specialist, told Athletics Weekly that patience is “the most frustrating thing” for any athlete. But her reward for developing this skill was finishing as the fastest Brit in the senior women’s race at the 2019 World Cross Country Championships. A strong winter season means that she has finished in the top 10 in six races already, including at the Simplyhealth Great Stirling XCountry. This is after experiencing multiple injuries that took her away from the sport for 17 months. It appears that a plan to cope with injury is essential for long-term success.

Indeed, as Hannah Winter explains in Athletics Weekly¹, fear of fitness loss is not a healthy reason to run whilst injured. Instead athletes should focus on returning to pain-free movement and setting realistic medium-term goals. The road to recovery may seem long, but it’s worth taking time to reflect on your journey to date and future potential. There are many ways to cope with not being able to run. I have spent time writing about my running, cycling indoors and committing to core exercises and stretching to stay active, as well as coaching other runners to achieve success. Whatever method(s) you use, try to stay positive. I now know that if injury does strike again I have a plan to cope as best I can with the setback.

So next time you consider whether to “push through the pain” of injury remember that long-term success requires smart decisions in the short-term. For example, a pre-planned break from running may prevent you needing to take an unplanned break.


1 The Athletics Weekly article is entitled Mental Rehab. Published on 11 April 2019.

Start of a New (Cycling) Journey

I haven’t been able to run for almost two weeks.

Although a recurring injury that I hope will heal before my next race, I became depressed.

I had to find an alternative to keep fit.
I didn’t want to spend money on temporary gym membership again.
As much as I enjoy walking it’s simply not intense enough to work my cardiovascular system.

So I purchased a bicycle.
But rather than cycling outdoors I specifically wanted a turbo trainer.

So after plenty of research I set up my indoor exercise equipment.
I had to wait a week for all the parts to be delivered.

I realised during that time how much I rely on running.
Running is an important part of my life.

More generally, exercise makes me who I am. It influences my appearance, my diet, my daily routine.
My motivation is to discover how fit I can can be.

I want to complete a sub 3-hour marathon and run the London Marathon as a good-for-age entry.
I believe I can achieve this one day.

My next attempt at running the qualifying time is Sunday 21 October.
It will be my eighth marathon.
I’m hoping my cross-training will at least maintain the performance level I demonstrated on my birthday...


Day 1
1 hour cycle at steady-pace
(average 20.7 mph and 92 rpm)



Suspected Stress Fractures Reduces my Training

3-9 September 2018


Unfortunately, after my successful long run last week I inadvertently triggered a shin injury I suffered months ago.

Although I tested my legs at another fast interval workout at my running club, I knew that rest was the most sensible option. Online research has suggested I could have stress fractures on the inside of both my lower tibia bones.

Although last week’s plan to run only three times per week is simply not advisable if my shins are to heal in time for my eighth marathon, I couldn’t be inactive.

Cross Training

I accumulated over 16.6 miles (almost 3 hours) of cycling in four days. However, I plan to accelerate my cross-training over the next month so have ordered equipment to help me maintain fitness…



Enjoying Cross-Training

4-10 June 2018

Week 3 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon, modified due to injury.


Cross-Training (Gym Workouts) – Monday – Sunday

Although the injury in my shins has remained it has not prevented me from enjoying a wide range of exercises.

I have focused on workouts to strengthen my lower body, including using machines such as leg extension, curl and press, as well as dumbbell lunges, barbell squats and barbell deadlifts.

Every day I have also spent hours on the cross-trainer, static bike and rower to continue sweating.

I also purchased more running shoes from Vivobarefoot, to give me more support when I return to running.

Accepting a Recurring Injury

28 May – 3 June 2018

Week 2 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Monday, Tuesday

>16.5 miles at 7:35-7:40 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Wednesday, Thursday

Cross-Training (Gym Workouts) – Friday, Saturday, Sunday

I accumulated over 22 miles in just over 2.5 hours of running. However, a recurring injury in my shins meant I had to re-examine my training plan.

To prevent me from stressing the affected areas further I decided to join a local gym. I now have an opportunity to build strength with weights and machines, whilst I maintain my cardiovascular fitness with lower impact equipment, such as stationary bikes and cross-trainers.

Reducing Training Stress (Week 2)

9-15 April 2018

Transitioning from my One Mile Challenge to endurance-based training has resulted in a minor injury. I was therefore forced to take more rest days than I had planned.

Still, this made me more determined and focused to gain the most from my limited training.

Lesson #3: Never ignore your gut instincts

The purpose of my first workout of the week on Monday (9 April) was to accumulate more miles at race pace*. Like last week the tempo threshold run was tougher than I had wanted it to be. Still, I ran 4x 1 mile at race pace with ¼ mile recovery jogs** in between.

I knew that I needed to rest but because I coached in the evening, and the following two days, I knew I had to be sensible. As I often run to the start of my coaching sessions I found the extra effort resulted in increased pain in my lower legs.

Although I was fully aware that rest was essential I decided to ignore it. This set my training back a couple of days. Therefore I learnt that a more sensible approach would have been to modify my own workouts to factor in extra, but less structured activity.

Lesson #4: Running on grass can aid recovery

On Sunday (15 April) I ran simply to stretch my legs and test my MTSS injury, which was made worse by the club run I committed to on Thursday (12 April). The club workout was 30x 30 seconds of fast pace running*** with 30 seconds of jogging recoveries in between. The high impact of running on the pavement did not support my training. Instead I realised that these faster workouts are not what I need in the build-up to my 10 mile race.

So instead, on the last day of the week, I purposefully ran on grass, striking the ground with my mid-foot rather than forefoot. These modifications ensured that my leg muscles received a workout but without excessive stress.

Psychologically, the run gave me confidence because I felt positive about my injury. Also, because there was less focus on maintaining a particular pace I could enjoy the countryside around me.

During the week I ran 4.25 miles on Friday and 4.6 miles on Sunday at recovery pace** to build my endurance. My rest days were Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. My mile repeats on Monday and interval workout on Thursday amounted to 6.95 miles at race pace or quicker.


10 Mile Training: Week 2

* An appropriate pace range for me to support my race goal is 6:00-6:30 per mile.
** My recovery pace this week (including warm-up and cool down) is any pace slower than 8:50 per mile.
*** Interval training for me this week is any pace faster than 5:30 per mile.

What to do with MTSS

Training for my One Mile Challenge has had one negative consequence.

I have developed a minor injury in my lower legs.

This is not the first time in my running career I have felt pain on the sides of my shins.

It is a common injury amongst runners (and also soldiers)1.

This is not comforting.

There are various names for the condition, such as shin splints, but Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) is the most relevant. The pain along the inside of the shins is felt during running, walking and even resting.

The causes are not well understood but a number of factors could contribute1, and include:

  • heel-striking
  • over-pronation (inward turning of the foot after landing)
  • lower bone density
  • higher Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • previous history of MTSS-related injuries

Like with all running-related injuries, overtraining is most likely the cause of my recent issues. Too many miles, at a relatively fast pace, on hard surfaces, such as pavement, will overload the bones in the lower legs. The impact, therefore, should be reduced.

Many treatments have been studied, but none have been conclusively effective2. So easily-applied practices are the most logical, and include:

  • covering the affected area with kinesiology tape
  • stretching and icing the affected area regularly
  • strengthening the abductors3 and calf muscles
  • resting (or cross-training to lower the impact of exercise)

These can be implemented in the short- and long-term.

I intend to prioritise the recovery of the affected area not least so that other more serious conditions, such as stress fractures, do not develop4.


1 Moen, M.H., Tol, J.L., Weir, A., Steunebrink, M., and De Winter, T.C. (2009). “Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome: A Critical Review.” Sports Medicine, Volume 39 (7), pp. 523–546.
2 Winters, M., Eskes, M, Weir, A., Moen, M.H., Backx, F.J.G., Bakker, E.W.P. (2013). “Treatment of Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome: A Systematic Review.” Sports Medicine, Volume 43 (12), pp. 1315-1333.
3 Becker, J., Nakajima, M., Wu, W. (2017). “A Prospective Study on Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome in Runners: 505 Board #326…” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Volume 49 (5S Suppl 1), p.141
4 Galbraith, R.M., and Lavallee, M.E. (2009). “Medial tibial stress syndrome: conservative treatment options.” Current Review of Musculoskeletal Medicine, Volume 2, pp. 127-133.

Coping with Postponed Events

There will always be factors outside of a runner’s control.

One of them is the weather.

Unfortunately races get cancelled or postponed when the weather is deemed by the organisers as too treacherous.

It happened this weekend with the occurrence of more snow in the United Kingdom. The Roger One Mile time-trial scheduled for this afternoon (which I intended to race) and a local half marathon tomorrow (which two runners I coach had entered) have been postponed.

It is the first time this has affected my running.

Despite the initial disappointment, the calling off of an event should be no reason to prevent mine or anyone else’s progress. This relies on always having an alternative plan.

For example, for my One Mile Challenge, I always intended to attempt my goal at least three times, with adequate rest in between attempts. This meant I didn’t have to rely on only one occasion, with certain conditions and preparations. It also allows me to experiment, using experience to guide me.

The Roger One Mile time-trial would be on a local track ‘racing’ with others, and my other two attempts would be run alone along self-devised routes on flat surfaces such as pavement and road.

Even for longer distances you can easily research another race ahead of time that you would be available to race if required. Likewise, a self-organised race (in the form of a virtual race) can provide the necessary motivation to meet your goal. Although the crowds or traffic-free route may not be present, I believe this is one way to build self-confidence and mitigate the inevitable issues of externally-organised events.

My advice also applies when illnesses, injuries or emergencies stop you from participating in a running race. If you prepare well in advance for any potential problems you’ll have an effective psychological technique to cope with other setbacks that occur in training and in the off-season.

This can easily be incorporated into your racing strategy long before you travel to the start line. 

You’ll then become a more resilient runner that has, paradoxically, greater control over your running.

Overcoming An Early Injury

15-21 January 2018

Wednesday – workout #8

7x 0.15 mile sprints (with uphill sections) at a range of 15 seconds slower and faster than 1 mile goal race pace* with 1½ min jogging recoveries

After 3 days of rest I knew I had to run.
But my right leg was still feeling sore.
So I compromised, committing to less reps than I could ordinarily manage.
I needed to prove I hadn’t lost any fitness.
Each rep began with an incline before flattening out for the last two thirds of the route.
My starting point for each rep crept up the hill as I struggled to jog far enough to return to the base.
“Drive. Drive. Power. Power.”
The mantra kept me strong throughout as my breathing became uncontrollable.
I had to dodge dogs and a few walkers but overcame slight stitches and acid reflux.

Thursday – workout #9

10x (2 mins hard effort at approx. ½ min slower than 1 mile goal race pace* with 1 min jogging recoveries)

My right leg was worse, forcing me to doubt whether I should run a fast club session.
But I risked it, knowing I would have the remainder of the week recovering.
I was conscious of not running too hard.
I didn’t want to run at the front of the pack.
But I found myself there.
So I used lapping others as my motivation.
As another runner passed me during the active recoveries I used him as the marker to overtake on the hard sections.
“Don’t panic.”
I didn’t rush my movement but kept quickening my pace, attempting to feel relaxed.
Then the drizzle came.
I persevered until the end of the session, proud that I performed so well under less than ideal circumstances.

One Mile Challenge: Week 3

The rest of the week included 5 rest days (Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) to ensure that I fully recovered from my sore right fibula and sore throat. Heat and ice failed to make much difference so I used kinesiology tape, which supported Thursday’s workout and helped heal my injury over the weekend.

During my two quality workouts I accumulated 4.73 miles (25 mins and 8 secs) between 4:29 – 5:43 min per mile pace. My maximum heart rate recorded was 197 bpm.


* 1 mile goal race pace is 5:00 per mile.

First Complications of My Fast Training

8-14 January 2018

Monday – workout #4

10x 0.35 mile at approx. ½ min slower than 1 mile goal race pace* with 2¼ min walking recoveries

1 ¼ laps around two recreational football pitches.
I felt early on that I was not matching my 1 mile goal race pace by the half way mark of each rep. 
I adjusted my expectations and kept working hard.
I finished each rep strong but the extra distance played on my mind.
I used the mantras “stay strong” and “keep your form” to remain positive.

Wednesday – workout #5

3x (3x approx. 20 sec hill sprints at faster than 1 mile goal race pace* with 40 sec jogging recoveries downhill) with approx. 2 min standing recoveries between sets

My first 2018 workout with my work running group saw me running Kenyan Hills.
My new Vibrams felt slippery on the stony gradient. So I switched to grass.
I stayed strong, using my arms to propel my way to the end of the straight at the top of the hill.
A fellow runner, a young 400m athlete from the local club, training on the same stretch reminded me of the power and form I needed.
I kept a little in reserve, unsure of the effect of an extra workout in the week.

Thursday – workout #6

11x 0.25-0.3 mile at approx. ¼ min slower to ¼ min faster than 1 mile goal race pace* with 1-1½ min jogging recoveries

Again I led my running club from the start as I navigated through the twisty path along the perimeter of a pond.
Despite the dark and sharp turns I soon knew my way.
I stayed fast along the last curve until I could jog.
I didn’t look around until rep nine when I had to pick up the pace to finish ahead of a fellow fast runner.
I had proved my speed and didn’t worry about him passing me the last two reps. I was pleased to stay within my pace range. I shook his hand in appreciation of his indirect support.

Saturday – workout #7

5x ½ mile at approx. ½ – ¾ min slower than 1 mile goal race* with 2 min walking/standing recoveries

My relatively straight route on the grass along a stretch of my local river walk felt long. Then I headed back the other way.
I couldn’t help but slow the last half of the distance for the first two reps.
I better managed my fast start the next two reps.
I kept telling myself “no pain, no gain”.
My final rep was hard.
I embraced the gut-busting effort and tried to control my breathing.

One Mile Challenge: Week 2

My week also included 2 rest days (Tuesday and Sunday) and 1 day of recovery running (Friday) amounting to 5 km.

Although I didn’t suffer much calf and quad ache throughout the week, I felt slight pain half way up my right fibula, requiring rest.

I accumulated 9.65 miles (51 mins and 14 secs) between 4:29 – 5:50 min per mile pace. My maximum heart rate recorded was 190 bpm.


* 1 mile goal race pace is 5:00 per mile.

How I Trained for my Quickest Marathon

Early May – Mid October 2017

After a promising spring marathon, I wanted to continue towards qualifying for the London Marathon. So after a week of rest to recover from a local 5 mile race, I began training for a familiar autumn marathon.

I devised a flexible training plan that aimed to increase my mileage of my spring training (34 miles per week) over a period of 24 weeks. After thorough research I intended to run 7 days a week. After 5 weeks I had to include a weekly rest day to ensure adequate recovery between workouts.

Read more

Run to Feel Alive

Born to Run (2009) by Christopher McDougall


Injury Dilemma

In January 2001, a journalist in his 40s asks doctors why running causes him and the majority of runners so many injuries. He learns running is a high-impact sport that affects a very sensitive area of the body – the feet.

He notes that running is a primal activity used for pleasure and to escape danger. Running animals are injury-free and yet humans appear to suffer regularly. 

Running Shoes

McDougall tackles the subject by summarising extensive studies on the effects of shoes.

  • The more cushioning in shoes, the less stable they become, as feet always seek to contact a solid platform. Therefore, thinner soles provide greater stability.
  • We are designed through evolution to run barefoot, as pronation is a natural feature of our feet.

Despite the constant technological advances and sophisticated marketing campaigns, modern running shoes actually increase runners’ chance of injury. The multi-billion dollar industry is also indicative of Western society, which prioritises short-term results and monetary incentives over long-term consistency and health.

Daring Adventure

McDougall sets off to discover the purity of running and finds the Copper Canyons of Mexico, where he meets the Native American tribe of the Tarahumara. The running philosophy adopted by this peaceful, giving and athletic people is humbling.

  • They run free like children subconsciously do.
  • They love running in any condition and at any time, embracing the uncertainty of the next obstacle.
  • They eat a simple diet, predominantly local vegetables such as greens and squashes, and grains such as corn.

McDougall learns to run easy, light and smooth in order to run faster, and to complete an ultramarathon along challenging trails. The race takes months of extensive planning and treacherous navigation, culminating in a secret and awe-inspiring event with some of the best endurance runners in the world, including Scott Jurek, Jenn Shelton and Barefoot Ted.

Running Man Theory

Ultimately, McDougall subscribes to a scientific theory that humans are born to run. Despite losing power, stability and aerodynamics by travelling on two legs, we retain many running attributes:

  • an achilles tendon
  • arched feet
  • short and straight toes
  • large glutes
  • the nuchal ligament*

We can also take more steps per breath than any other animal. Combined with sweating on the move, we can cool without stopping and thus fare better in all climates.

These features enable us to be the best persistence hunters. The skills of animal tracking, strategy and visualisation mean we could use our aerobic capacity to exhaust antelope to death.

Although we thankfully do not use running for this purpose we still harbour the desire to travel at pace using only our will and physical strength.


* This stabilises our heads when running.