A couple of months back I ran the Brighton Marathon. Well, I ran part of it… Around half way through I developed bad blisters on the soles of both feet and had to drop out at 16 miles. I’ve run a couple of marathons before, I’d done enough training for this one, I wasn’t wearing new shoes or socks… So what went wrong this time?
Once the blisters healed, I experimented with a few things and figured out the problem. Through the training I’d had some calf and Achilles tendon pain, and unknowingly had started running differently to compensate. To take the load off my calves and Achilles I was landing with my feet ahead of my body, causing my feet to slip forward slightly in my shoes each time I landed. The change was hardly noticeable, but caused the blisters after longer distances.
On reflection, I’d made a few classic mistakes in my marathon training:
- I’d increased my weekly mileage too soon. Back in January I already felt OK running for 15 miles, but the connective tissue in my legs needed time to strengthen. If I’d stuck to the recommended mileage increase of 10% per week I might have been fine.
- I didn’t back up my running with any strength training. Just 30 minutes of gym or bodyweight exercise would have added strength and stability, reducing my chance of injury.
- Once I got the calf/Achilles pain I tried to ignore it! Rather than get treatment, and cut back or modify my running, I just hoped it would go away.
- I’d noticed a burning sensation in the soles of my feet during my long runs, but again hadn’t followed up on it. If I’d taken a step back (literally!) and done some gait analysis I could have figured out what had changed before it was too late.
It was very disappointing to have to pull out in the middle of the marathon, especially after all that training, but hopefully I’ve managed to learn from the experience. No plans to run another marathon soon, but if/when I do I’ll make sure not to make the same mistakes again.