Cross-Training Through a Running Injury

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 | By Hal Higdon
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Have a question about running? You're in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon's Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


After Week 9 of your Novice 2 marathon plan, I began to suffer from IT Band Syndrome. I took a week off, rolled the muscle a lot, then attempted the Week 10 long run. I only made it a half mile before the pain became too much. Now ten days have passed without my running. I'm going to have ART (Active Release Therapy) this week, then try to continue my marathon build-up by cross training, doing my "long runs" on a bike or elliptical. How long can I go without running before I fall way too far behind? Should I start wrapping my head around a later marathon?


First a disclaimer: I am not a doctor so I shy away from giving medical advice. Any advice you receive on the internet, even from a doctor, is probably suspect. The only diagnoses that make any sense for a case like yours is hands-on. "Does the IT band hurt?" (The sound of you screaming.) "Okay, cross train for another week."

Disclaimer aside, yes, you can cross train to the starting line, but will that get you to the finish line? I honestly don't know. I suspect that within the next several weeks, you need to find out whether you can survive even a short run of a few miles without that scream mentioned above. If you can run pain free for even a few miles, you may be able to ease your way up to somewhere near the ultimate 20-miler prescribed in Novice 2. Don't get too close. You may singe your wings. Sometimes, the best decision is to get healthy first, then decide which "other" race will be your next one.

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