Almost two out of three long-distance runners injure themselves each year. While most of these injuries happen to amateur runners, it is still essential to recognize the number of injuries that occur during long-distance running events. Although many athletes train anywhere between 12-18 weeks before an event, oftentimes, the excitement of a race can make even the most experienced long-distance runner forget basic form. Mitch Vanhille, an endurance runner and long-distance triathlete, has seen many athletes in his career injure themselves during races. Now a Triathlon coach, Mitch Vanhille hopes to educate his athletes and the general public on the most common ways injuries occur during long-distance events.
The nervous energy that occurs before a race is palpable and perhaps one of the most significant aspects of long-distance racing. After many weeks or even months of training, athletes are excited to begin the race and compete against their peers. However, this nervous energy can easily work against the runners. Racers may try to break away from the crowd and maintain an unsustainable pace, forget their form, or ignore proper breathing techniques. Any one of these common mistakes can lead to a worse finish time, or more likely, an injury. To prevent an event injury, racers should try various focusing exercises and listen to music during races to help keep an even pace.
It can be challenging, especially as a beginner racer, to know how much to train before a race. Depending on experience level, the amount of training needed can vary greatly. Some of the most common injuries that can occur during events can be caused by either over-training or under-training. When trying to avoid under-training, it is important to stick to your training schedule as closely as possible. Oftentimes, new athletes will skip their final training day in order to “rest” before the race; this can increase the likelihood of injury. It is important to run the day before a race to stimulate blood flow and neuromuscular coordination. Overtraining is often caused by a racer not allotting enough rest days during training for proper recovery. If an athlete is experiencing abnormal soreness, persistent fatigue, slower running times, and elevated resting heart rate in the weeks before an event, they are likely over-training.
Long-distance running can be a complex sport that many athletes attempt to navigate through trial and error. However, this approach can lead to improper running technique, repeated injuries, and overall slower improvement. To learn long-distance running’s best practices, Mr. Vanhille suggests finding online education resources, finding a local running team, or hiring a running coach to avoid potential injuries.