Marathon - to be or not to be?

Back to my, now long running knee saga. Last night there were two firsts for me; first visit to an orthapaedic doctor; and first doctor who didn't speak English! So a double challenge but at least an opportunity to practice my German (actually not that tough as the German word for knee is errr...knie - pronounced "knee" and all the bits inside are in Latin anyway).

Encouragingly the doc tells me he has has run marathons (plural) - which I find encouraging! So cue some fairly vigorous manipulation of my knee, which, if it doesn't result in identification of a problem will surely create one (mental note: must improve my stretching routine).

Conclusion is that my knee is basically in good condition (for a man of my advancing years) and no problem to keep running. Pain has been caused, in his view, by muscle imbalance and (probably) shortening of the ham strings. Solution? strengthen imbalanced muscles and stretch more! (how much is this going to cost me?) Recommendation: cycling to balance up muscles on inside of thighs (what are they called?).

I suspect the problem has initiated itself through the nature of the running I have been doing this year (lots of hills) and compounded by lots of downhill running (particularly in races) creating high amounts of shock.

So no need for a protracted rest - but I suspect in order to fit in the cycling (as I had already started last week) that running may be confined to four sessions a week - last weeks four sessions amounted to about 38 miles a bit light for a marathon but no choice really.

Longer term, I don't see marathons featuring much (I never like the long runs anyway) and after this October I suspect I will shift down to short races only - and if the cycling goes well then maybe I'll have a tilt at a duathlon (I might even learn to swim! and try a tri).

To be honest though more relieved than anything else.


  • All that is great news Martin. I am glad that it is all easily fixed. It has also reasured me about what I have done with my training. I have had a slight shift from lots or running and more running. I now do at least 2 X 45 min spinning classes a week which really helps.

    As for 38 miles a week being light for a marathon. 38 miles is 60km, the longest week I did for the London Marathon was 68km and I set a pb.

    Which marathon is it that you doing by the way?
  • That is excellent news Martin. It is really comforting when you get a doc who realises that not running is not really an option. IMHO, 38 miles per week is plenty for a marathon (I had a similar experience to SwissBobby in 2001 regarding mileage and marathon p.b.) providing you get a couple of decent rides in.

    Duathlons are also a real laugh. Ever tried to run hard after jumping off a bike, instant rubberman impersonation virtually guaranteed the first few times you do it.

  • SwissB

    The marathon is the 3-laender marathon which starts in Germany, goes through Austria, loops briefly through Switzerland and then returns to Austria to finish in Bregenz - mostly run along the shores of lake constance.

    MM - we have a couple of people in the office who fancy themselves for triathlons but are coming off a swimming base. I beginning to quite fancy the idea!

    Current running schedule (which I hope to maintain to the marathon) looks like:

    Tuesday intervals (one hour) - c. 7 miles
    Thursday steady - c. 7-8 miles
    Saturday - Long c.14-18 miles
    Sunday - tempo c. 7-8 miles

    Total 35-41 (avg 38) I am currently flexing my long run and one week doing about 1.5 hours (or race) and the next 2.5.

    I actually really like cycling but know very little about it - actually sounds like another thread!
  • Are you intending to do long sessions on the bike? I'm not convinced that long runs are necessary for your legs but more for cardiovascular strength/efficiency. IMHO it should be possible to achieve a good marathon time with 30 miles per week and replace the long run with an equivalent bike session; MM and SB's comments would seem to support this.

    Good news about the injury, I recall having my knee manipulated by a physio who asked whether it hurt. I think she was just checking that I recognised pain as it would have certainly hurt my good knee!

    Good luck with the training.
  • I seem to remember reading last year that the average weekly mileage for a FLM finisher was 32 mile per week. Bearing in mind there are some people doing more, and in some cases considerably more, there must be plenty completing on 30 or even less. Several friends were doign about 40 and got good for their age times.

    BTW, I think the muscle on the inside of the thigh (if you mean the one that pulls the legs together) is the adductor.
  • Interesting Iain I based my training on a Sunday Times Supplement article with suggest the aveage weekly should be about 30km during marathon preparation.
  • Thanks - Some interesting views

    I am sure that its possible to get round on less mileage but I'm hoping for a crack at sub 3:30 for which, psychologically at least, somewhere over 40 seems to be the standard wisdom.

    DavidB - Partially I think you're right, in that the main reason for running long is the need to teach the body to store glycogen and use fat as fuel - so in theory a long bike ride might accomplish that. The main problem I think is that ultimately cycling is non-specific (in terms of muscle groups used) and includes periods of rest.
  • what distances are involved with a biathlon/triathlon
  • Steve

    Distance vary quite a lot - I've been looking at what they call "sprint" triathlons which is broadly 0,75 k swim, 20k bike, 5k run.
  • To follow up on Martin's comments Steve

    olympic distance: 1.5K swim, 40K bike, 10K run.
    half ironman: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run.
    ironman: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mie run.
    ultraman: 6.2 mile (10 K) open ocean swim, 261.4 mile (421 K) cross-country bike ride, 52.4 mile (84K) ultra-marathon run (at least they give you 3 days for this last one!!!!!!!! Check it out at:

    DavidB, I have to say that although I'm not convinced of the need to do high (running) mileage for marathon success I do think that the long run is one of the cornerstones for doing well over 26.2 miles. IMHO I think you can get away with dropping easier runs in favour of cycling (or some other aerobic/strenghtening exercise) but I think that speedwork, tempo runs and the long run are crucial. Of course all this is entirely subjective and may be entirely psychological!!!

    All the best

  • Martin - the inner quad muscle is the vastus medialis - which if wasted can result in quad imbalance as the other 3 quad muscles overpower it. This can get so severe you can't walk and suffer spontaneous quad tears (personal experience!)

    Also - if the knee doesn't extend properly this muscle also gets wasted as it's only triggered in the very last bit of the range of motion of the leg - which never happens if the knee doesn't have full extension (ie with the legs straight in front of you and someone pressing down firmly above the knee - can they lift your toes up so that the heel comes off the ground?

    Quite apart from the quad problems this can cause acute shin splints..make cycling extra hard.. and an inability to perform well when running up hills ( I knew there had to be an excuse!)

    I could go on forever but if you think this is you, then e-mail me and I'll give you chapter and verse on the 1000001 remedial exercises which work really well.
    Unfortunately swimming isn't an option for me..I sink with style!
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