I’ve waited almost two years now to see him race a marathon. In the 2012 London Marathon I watched him drop out at mile 10 due to a hamstring issue which most likely stemmed from a concomitant plantar fasciits. Of course his injury resolved and he was to run New York that same year but again dropped out this time before starting knowing that he could not perform at his his highest level. Then in April of 2013 he was prepared to take on Boston only to pull out with what was apparently a quadriceps strain that was more then likely the same injury. Just this week he again announced that he was pulling out of The ING New York City Marathon due to a hip injury.
What is happening here? Obviously I am no elite marathoner or runner so I can’t begin to say what type of training and discipline it takes to get to the level. The question that I have, is “Are our bodies meant to run this type of distance as fast as we can?”. There is no doubt that we were built to run, and run long distance. But how hard should we be pushing the limits? I can’t critique Hall’s training patterns, because no one really knows what he is doing as he has changed his coaches so many times. In fact, he has apparently returned to his faith based approach which relies on his own judgment for how far and how hard to go.
Running injuries are simple. They’re caused by running. The challenge is to have a perfect mix of rest, hard running, and easy running to get you to the starting line without being injured. There are many other variables but these tend to be the most important ones. Sounds simple right? It’s not. You feel a pain, but you keep running. Why? Because if you don’t, you may not get in the training you need to become faster for your race. What caused your pain to begin with? Running? Was it your form? It could have been. That’s another variable, but most likely at the elite level as in the case of Ryan Hall, form has self corrected and will not play a role. Unless however you have a nagging foot strain or plantar fasciitis which causes a “limp run” that then leads to an Achilles’ tendon injury.
So why is Hall injured? He’s running. He’s trying to run faster then he ever has and pushing the limits will no doubt put you in that position. It’s a challenge to balance improvement without becoming inured. I’m sure if hall was training to run a 2:30 marathon none of this would be happening. He would be conservative and his hard runs would not be as hard giving the body more of a chance to recover. Once an injury starts, running with it will slow its recovery and healing as well as compromise form and any physiologic gains.
So consider someone who may not be an elite and is trying to break four hours in a Marathon and develops a mild overuse injury. They may run through it and not get the physiologic improvement to break four hours. Resting it will help, but could leave them short of their goal. Most novice runners end up still running their marathon and may while not meet their goal, still finish. Hall has a goal to meet and probably needs to find the balance pushing the limits yet recovering.
Remember while marathon running has been around for quite some time, we have only begun to understand the training that goes into this event. There are so many variables involved in running and they vary amongst each runner. We can study the elites and we can study the novice runners, but the time and demands that go into this training takes years not months making a study difficult to perform. You don’t master the marathon in 6 months. The marathon is something your body needs years of preparation for. Our bodies were meant for running, the problem is our society has forced us out of it by our busy lives and other means of transportation.