Why did I get cramp so early?

Hi everyone,

I am a novice runner and ran my 2nd marathon (both Edinburgh) at the weekend where I hoped to knock 15-20 minutes off the my time from last year, where I didn't really prepare as well as I could have.

I followed an 18 week training program and didn’t experience any cramp, or even feel that I was close to cramping, during any of the training runs of up to and including 20 miles. During the race however I began to experience twinges in my calves from mile 10 before cramping severely in my quads after only 14 miles, with my calves going completely when I tried to stretch the quads. Gutted.

I didn't do anything differently than before or during my training runs - same breakfast, same clothes, a starting pace (8.45 min/mile) that I had ran comfortably before many times, same gels, same consumption pattern, similar water intake, temperature not any higher than experienced during training.

So why did I cramp up completely after only 14 miles when I had run further than this in training on many occasions with no issues?

Could the early onset of cramp be due to the course? I have only experienced quad cramps twice in my life, both during the Edinburgh marathon. Last years cramps were much later on however I had already slowed considerably due to a stitch and a generally poorer level of fitness.

The only other thing I did differently was to go for a sports massage after my longest run of 20 miles (3 weeks before the marathon) and again a week before at the recommendation of the masseur. Both sessions were pretty sore and I could feel it in my legs for a couple of days after so could these sessions actually have done me more harm than good?

Any thoughts or advice would be very welcome as I'm at a loss to explain why I cramped so early. I expected cramp but after 20 miles, not 14. 18 weeks of effort for a gain of less than 3 minutes is hard to take!


  • Oh dear, sorry to hear this image  I don't know why this happened to you Beep, or whether the massage was harmful.

    You probably know this already, but one way to help yourself over cramps is to increase potassium intake (bananas and dark chocolate). One word of caution: bananas may lead to constipation image

    Good luck. 

  • Hi, if the massage you experienced caused you pain and soreness then there is a good chance it was responsible for your cramps. Massage has the effect of inhibiting muscles, especially if it is hard enough to cause you pain. This would leave fewer muscles contracting effectively and place a heavier burden on those that were still working during your marathon; hence the cramp. Try reading this short post and click through to the study which dispels most of the myths that surround cramp. http://human-movement.com/why-do-my-muscles-cramp/

  • I wonder if its because Edinburgh is downhill for the first part?

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