We’ve all been there. Two weeks before your goal race, some body part, usually in the lower half of your body, will start to grumble at you. Panic! Confusion! Denial! You limp out of bed in the mornings, wear compression everything, take ice baths, foam roll 24/7, and discuss extensively with your running friends what to do.
Is it just the taper crazies? Or are you really injured? Should you race? Should you take half a pack of ibuprofen and then race? Should you start the race, but stop if it hurts too much? Or should you stay off it, forget about the race, and become the world champion of moping instead?
Among the Saltines, there’s a wide range of attitudes toward racing with pain. I’m conservative about it, an attitude I’ve learned from experience (FYI: racing a half marathon with achilles tendonitis is a good way to make sure the achilles tendonitis gets even worse and lasts even longer. Shocking, I know.) Last year, when I hurt my foot a few weeks before the Berlin Marathon, I decided not to run the race despite the months of training and the squandered €99 entry fee. I was sad about missing the race, but not as sad as I would have been if running the race had made my foot hurt even worse.
Admittedly, I’m on the paranoid side when it comes to running through pain. Sometimes it turns out fine, but sometimes you end up with a long-term problem. To me, the risk isn’t worth it – not to mention that it’s never a pleasant experience to race with pain – but everyone’s calculation is different.
This discussion should also come with the caveat that being 100% pain-free as a serious runner is not always possible. Often we have niggles that are fine to run through as we sort them out with physiotherapy or other treatments. Today, we’re not talking about niggles, but rather about pain that is present while you run and may be made worse by racing (or not! Nobody knows!)
Tell us: what’s your approach to racing with pain? Do you or don’t you? What are your experiences?