Marathon: how important is the last long run?

Hi - I'm training for my second marathon (London). It's been going really well and then last week everything changed, when I could only manage 11 miles of an 18-mile long run. Had to run/walk the rest because of pain on the inside of my ankle and my arch. I am not sure what the problem is - I had felt little niggles a month ago but managed to keep plodding on, with only very minor pain and only after about 16 miles or so. But now it has got worse.

It is not desperately sore to walk on, apart from first thing in the morning. But I can feel a dull, faint ache in the background all the time and if I flex my foot. I am not running at all this week (will swim instead and hope for the best) but was hoping to do 18 or 20 miles on Friday. If I don't manage this run, what effect will it have on my marathon, and can I still run it?

It is so frustrating as, energy and stamina wise, I was still feeling great after the last long run, but towards the end I could not run for much more than a minute at a time.

I can't defer because I have deferred once already....any advice would be much appreciated! Not sure whether to go all out to try to do this last long run or just forget it and hope for the best come April 13th.


  • MACbMACb ✭✭✭

    To some extent I guess it depends on the amount of long runs you've already done. Also, if you do decide to try a long run, do laps so that there is an option to quit if the pain persists. But with 3 weeks to go the taper can start gradually anyway. So I am sure maintaining fitness by other methods is a good option whilst reducing the risk of aggravating the running injury. good luck. I am in a similar situation myself, but my injury was 7 weeks out, so not really easy to regain full fitness for me. When a niggle becomes a more serious problem it cannot be ignored anymore, so best take care and avoid injury. What about other cross training options? cycling, elliptcal trainer etc.?

  • Nose NowtNose Nowt ✭✭✭

    I don't know what the injury is. But No 1 priority would be to rest it. Completely. Get it better.  See a physio if you can.

    Keep up some aerobic fitness in ways that don't hurt it.

    If you don't run for a week and the problem goes away, then you'll be in a position to do a couple of recovery runs, then one last long run 2 weeks before the rade.  If you've not been to 18 miles yet, then (if injury-free), I'd look to achieve that. Indeed, I'd look to do that anyway.

    It's not the perfect 3-week taper, but you will have had a week of general recuperation already, so I personally think it would be a very good compromise.

    Good luck with it.

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    It depends on what other long runs you have under your belt.
  • Thanks all. I've done 3 lots of 16 miles and the 18-miler I attempted. Is this a good amount? I followed my plan to the letter and until now have not missed a single run. Was going so well up to that point! Laps is a great idea, MACb, thanks. Good luck with your marathon as well. I guess if I can't do the long run I will try all sorts of cross-training and hope for the best...

  • Nose NowtNose Nowt ✭✭✭

    becks.. 3x16 miles is good... but going to 18 miles does have some importance.

    However, you'll get round steadily... and the 18 miler now won't make masses of difference... but I do stick to my earlier post.  If you can do one 18 miler, at least 2 weeks from your marathon, without risking injury (critical!!), then I do think you'll benefit.  But managing your injury remains the over riding concern.  If you need to rest it, then just be happy with your training up to now, and manage your expectations.

  • Agreeing on resting it and seeing a physio. Problem with that location on your foot/ankle is that it could be your posterior tibial tendon - and not resting it now could lead to worse problems longer term. Taping it might help.

    You could try going for a long cycle and then a shorter run on legs tired from the cycling, as an alternative to the long run?

  • Thank you again for the replies. I will see if I can get to a physio - that sounds like a really sensible suggestion. I've waited 5 years to do this marathon, for various reasons! 

    I always thought you had to do a 3-week taper but could you get away with 2 weeks, then? Was thinking I could see if I could perhaps wait til next week to do the run. I feel I would like to do it for confidence reasons. Things were going quite well too - I am a slow runner but was doing so much better than last time I trained for a marathon! May well try a long cycle and shorter run too, thanks Debra. Feel I need to do something that will test my endurance!

  • Have a think about a plan for race day too. I struggled with knee pain which prevented me training properly for london once but i was determined to do it at all costs. Had proper strapping, painkillers in my belt and started a run/walk strategy from early on. 

    Have you tried rollering your foot over a cold can? 


  • beckstrous: three week taper is not set in stone. The aim is to arrive at the start line well rested and raring to go - but trained as well as possible. My first marathon I had an enforced three week rest from running beforehand, except for one short (four miles as I recall) run a few days before, due to a bout of piriformis syndrome. (I did have the advantage of having trained for and run a 50K beforehand so I knew I could do the distance, but it still felt very odd not running in those last three weeks).

  • Just wanted to thank you for your replies again. I saw a physio today (don't know if it would have occurred to me so close to the race...doh). Debra, you were right - it is a tibialis posterior tendon strain. The physio was a runner herself and said she thought the marathon would be OK. She has taped me up to try a long run in a couple of days. I will try the cold can too! Tape feels weird, like someone is gripping my foot! But I think she knew her stuff. Interestingly she thinks it is because I am (a) hypermobile (runs in my family) and (b) extra hypermobile as I am breastfeeding and this releases a hormone that relaxes your joints etc. Very interesting! Fingers crossed my last long run goes OK; she said even if it doesn't that doesn't mean the marathon is off. Had a sports massage too and she discovered lots of knots in my leg!
  • beckstrous: if it's tibialis posterior strain then okay, get through the marathon but then REST!!! and do whatever exercises the physio suggests before you do permanent damage to the tendon. I nursed mine through five 50-mile trail races last year, then came off my bicycle three days after the last one and tore the tendon, so I've had five MONTHS enforced rest and I'm looking at a probably permanent degree of degeneration in the tendon. Totally messed up my plans for this year (London on a GFA place, then Comrades) and it's going to take me months to build up again now.

  • NayanNayan ✭✭✭

    I did my last 20 miler 4 weeks out from race day, and (somewhat arrogantly) at goal pace too. I was carrying some persistent mild hip (tfl)  pain too and have had to rest it ever since.

    Clearly, that cost me a week of training, though fingers crossed that has just meant my taper is a bit more blunt that it was supposed to be. Having seen a physio I'm currently substituting bike work and brisk walks for easy sessions and passing on any harder stuff. Thankfully its just overuse/micro trauma and not anything more serious.

    Looking back I shouldve either passed on that weekend's long run or shortened it in favour of cross training to keep aerobic fitness. In future I'm going to be more conservative whenever my body tells me  something needs addressing

  • Thanks Debra. Really appreciate the warning!

    I managed to do 18 miles. Was really impressed with the physio. Then I found out I could get physio for free on my husband's work insurance, so this week someone else has taped it up so I can do 9 miles on Sunday. Only this time the tape's already falling off! I wasn't that impressed with the physio either. Hmm


    Nayan, good luck. I am sure that now you are in the taper you will be OK. I am also going to be really careful these next 2 weeks. 

  • Did the 'cold can' idea (from Camlo, above) help at all? Massaging the arch of your foot by standing on a tennis ball can feel pretty good too. I assume you are getting some stretches in?

  • It did help, thanks, SideBurn. And yes, I have got some stretches to do. Now having troubles as early as 9 miles and I am sure it is because the second physio I saw taped it in a totally different way. Luckily the tape from the first physio came off in one piece and for some reason I didn't chuck it, so will take it to next physio appointment this Friday.

    Don't think I will run for the next week. I am a member of a gym - what is the best way to keep up fitness during the taper? Cross-trainer, bikes, swimming (I hope nobody will say swimming as that's a it of a faff image)? They also have a different sort of cross trainer at my gym where you start off doing steps an then extend your stride. It is...odd.

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