Tight Calfs Stopping My marathon Training

I'm in a bad place. I've been training for the Brighton marathon since November but my plans have been severely hampered by tight calfs. Massage sorts me out and gives me a week or so trouble free but then it flares up again, it's been worse as my miles have ramped up. As a result I feel severely undertrained - furthest long run I got up to has been 18 miles.

I ran the Reading Half on Sunday in pain from almost the first mile to the last and cannot bare the thought of a full marathon ending the same way.

My problem is I don't know how to approach these final two weeks before the marathon. Right now I can barely walk let alone run but I know that once I get some massage next week I'll be OK again, so what do I do? I would really like to get to the start line with my legs feeling Ok and confident that I can at least make it through without injuring myself. Time is no longer an issue. Do I take it easier during the taper to save my legs or try and follow the plan cos I need to get miles in my legs? Any help gratefully received.


  • I'm also running the Brighton Marathon (or hope to).  I've got an ankle injury that has prevented me for running for the last 3 weeks and I've only managed 16.5 miles! However, in order not to let my fitness level drop, I've been swimming, cycling and doing as much non weight bearing exercise as I can.  I too feel undertrained.

    Sounds like you've trained pretty hard already, so you should definitely take it easier during the taper period .  Only exercise if it causes you no pain. 

  • Thanks for the reply Sheila. I hadn't even thought of doing other types of exercise. Is there any way of calculating how much we should be doing ie How much swimming/cycling is equal to how much running?
  • I don't know about swimming, but I did read somewhere recently that you have to cycle twice the distance you would run. I don't know if cycling will hurt your calf muscles though.  I've also found the cross trainer good as well.
  • Sometimes the tight calves can be related to poor circulation issues. Try using compression socks. They aren't that expensive and it may be worth the cost to see if it helps. There are many compression sock reviews out there. Some of the better known companies are Sigvaris and Jobst.
  • Also, in between the massages, try self-massaging your calves at least every morning and evening - with your hands or over a foam roller/rolling pin. And look up calf stretching exercises? There are instructions and videos online.
  • I'm also doing Brighton, and have been getting tight calfs too. I was told recently that calfs are pretty hard to stretch and most people don't do them for long enough, we should aim for 10-15 mins calf stretching after runs or even longer (with breaks) if having problems. I also love my spikey massage ball for really getting into the calf muscles as I don;t find the foam roller works so well on them. A tennis or golf ball would probably also work.

    Good luck with the next two weeks. Think it's better to get to strat line slightly under trained rather than injured so would reccommend rest.

  • I'm trying everything. Foam roller, compression socks, self massage, stretching. slowly improving. tricky thing is working out exactly how much I should be running over the next couple of weeks. I think you're right though diamond. getting to the line with healthy legs more important than attempting to get miles up to where they should be.

    my marathon training this year has taught me a very important lesson about progression of long runs and training effort. i was going great in the early stages but combination of tight calfs and a rather ambitous plan meant that I stepped up training quicker than I should have.
  • How about a run / walk technique to get you round? I am recovering from hamstring injury which occured 2 weeks ago after running half a mile. my longest run was 2 and a half weeks ago and 17 miles. I feel as if my fitness is slipping away even whilst swimming and cycling. After so many months training it's awful not knowing if you'll even get to the start line. Ambitious times will have to wait for another time. Good luck. I did a mile walk run tuesday which was a mile stone. Long way to go but I'm determined.

  • Rebecca - We're in a very similar place. Loving the determination. I need some of that back. How far are you planning to run before Brighton? I'm confident osteo will sort me out next Tuesday but the bigger connundrum is what to do in the build up to April 10 and get to the line confident I'll make it round. I was bothered about times and had trained to beat my PB - now I just want to survive. Having said that my PB is so poor I might even be able to beat it with some run/walking - what is the "technique" if that's not a stupid question?
  • I sympathise with you all. Suffering same myself trying to build up for triathlon. Swimming and cycling going fine but can only run about 20 mins before right calf gets really painful. Left sore too.

    Have bought new running shoes and having sports massage but seems as though it is going to be a long job. Am trying to do more stretching but think it is because I may have built up too fast. I know there is 10% rule but just too impatient. Wish I hadn't cocked up my training.

    Hope you manage your marathon

    Best regards


  • Thanks Phil

    It's a simple mistake leaping ahead when things are going well. Ah, wish I could go back in time. To add to the list of things I'm trying I'm gonna add "The Stick".
  • Thanks. I am planning to do london M on the 17th. The run walk method is -you run a short segment and then take a walk break and repeat. My physio reccommends that I start to walk about 5 mins before my leg gets irritated. So if I can run for half an hour before leg niggles then to do twenty five mins and then walk. If I wasn't injured I would run as far as able. I have heard that some people get better times using this technique than running it all outright (injured or not). 
  • I see. How long do you walk for when you do walk? and are you walking quite fast? Sorry to ask but feel same strategy may work for me. I imagine it takes a lot of discipline and also a lot of knowledge of your injury to time when to start walking.

    Thanks for the reply Rebecca.

  • I do not know if it'll work on the day or not but it's either that or pull out. I do not walk fast cause that aggravates my injury. three more weeks left. I may deter but too determined at present. I have no big plan as yet. I do not know when to walk or for what period of time. time will tell. I would advise you to forget target times and reduce the pressure you are placing on yourself. There will be other races.

  • can anyone tell me why after my half marathon run my calves and  thighs are so sore and stiff ..
  • There are so many reasons Angela - and I speak now as the world's leading authority on calf pain. For me I think the reasons are two fold - building up too quickly and not listening to my body and running too fast when I wasn't ready. If your longest run before your half was quite low the step up may have put added pressure on your legs, if you ran considerably faster than in any of your training runs and didn't do any pace training then that too would put pressure on your muscles. Aside from that there are loads of other factors. One thing is certain - its bloody annoying.

    10 days to go for me and still don't know whether I'm gonna make it to the starting line at Brighton. I need my mojo back. Managed five miles on Sunday before pain started - that's a long way from 26!
  • I'm getting tightness in my calfs once i have reached about 3 miles. Its not too bad and doesn't seem to get much worse as i run further. I managed the Reading half and it didn't get much worse as the race went on. However i'm now getting pain in my heels. Are the two related? And is the tightness in my calfs going to get worse over time? Any advice welcome.
  • DG

    The pain in your heels is probably due to your achilies tendon which is being over stretched by your foreshortened calf muscules.

    Proper deep muscle sports massage and self stretching, so much that it gets annoying, will help significantly.

    There is plenty of info on calf and achillies stretching via the wonderful google.


  • Thanks Piers.
  • Thought I'd share some information from my Osteopath in case its of use.

    He treats mainly runners so sees a lot of tight calfs, it is really common in marathon training.

    My biggest problem is that my calf muscles are too big, however they are not strong enough to cope with the pressure being put on them. Only solution long term is to make them stronger by doing specific exercises and stretches.

    Short term solution is massage - he's recommended I use a tennis ball. not to roll on as you would a foam roller (I'm doing that too and icing and stretching) but to find the pressure point, put pressure on then release.

    Cause of my problems has undoubtedly been stepping up volume and pace too quickly. It's a tough lesson learned. he says he sees these injuries more often from people who train on their own as they miss out on the discipline of club training (I always feared that if I joined a club it'd have the opposite effect and I'd try to push too hard to keep up).

    He says I'll get there for the marathon but not to over train between now and then, little can be gained, and just do short distances below marathon pace.

    Psychology is a big factor for those of us coming back from setbacks - especially as that fear can lead to tightness. Something to bare in mind I think is that nearly everyone at the start of a marathon will be nursing injuries, niggles and concerns - the best thing to do is to approach it with the emphasis on enjoying the experience, so that's what I'm going to do.

  • Just back from five mile very slow run. A little tightness but seemed to ease up after 3 miles or so. Feeling mildly optimistic of making it.
  • Hmm, optimism giving way to dread.
  • Hi johnny. I have been reading your posts as I am in pretty much the same boat, tight painful, calfs and only 10 days to the marathon.
    How are you doing? any more runs?
  • Hi Manuge

    Well, I'm going to go for it. Can't say I feel overly confident but I see no shame in not finishing if it doesn't work out like some runners seem to - thousands give up before making it to the start line and I've beaten them at least! Had a couple of massages and been carefully following osteos advice - I was doing some exercises that I thought were doing me good but actually were doing the reverse (oops). I've also been taking Magnesium and Il Glutimin (sp?) to speed up healing, it all seems to be working and I'm going to be very conservative about pace and maybe walk a bit.

    It's not too late. Take it easy, try to get a massage, do some foam rolling if you have one and a bit of icing
  • Woop-woop run-walk strategy worked a treat. time was rubbish but I care not.
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