At the beginning of July, Tenby (South West Wales) plays host to the Long Course Weekend which sees the 3 iron distance disciplines split over a weekend. On Friday night, athletes will undertake the 2.4 mile swim in Tenby’s North Beach , a 112 mile tour of Pembroke on the Saturday, and a marathon (plus shorter distance option) on the Sunday. This event is normally used as a pre cursor to Ironman Wales which is held a couple of months later.
This year I have signed up for just the marathon on the Sunday, since I was concentrating more on my running in 2017. My training has been a bit ‘stop start’ as I have struggled getting into a regular routine and training, for no reason other than a lack of motivation and focus. I have been getting in the long runs, but it has been the regular shorter runs I have often missed, which has really affected my ability to maintain regular pace over a longer distance. I have always found that when my two weekly shorter runs (5/6miles) are consistent, my longer runs are so much more comfortable.
This week, 3 weeks before the marathon, I planned to do my last long run of 20/22 miles and signing off a very unsatisfying training period. However, 15 miles into the run I was calling a taxi as I could barely put my heel to the floor. It seems plantar fasciitis has struck………..
I will admit that I have been battling the dreaded sore heel syndrome for a few weeks, and had just been managing it until after the marathon. I have been waking up with a sore heel most mornings but have been able to stretch it out to a certain degree. However, as things stand it is looking likely that I will be deferring my marathon place (if I can) because the condition has deteriorated and treatment needs to start now. First port of call is diagnosis from a professional.
For those of you who don’t know what it is, I will try to give my limited knowledge (supported by some medical information from the internet). “The plantar tendon keeps the arch of the foot from flattening completely when the foot bears weight, thus providing cushioning and shock absorption when you’re walking, running or standing” (Active.com). This tendon also allows you to point your toes. Plantar fasciitis is a condition that inflames this tendon and can be quite common amongst athletes, namely those who run and can be a recurring nightmare if the root of the problem is not discovered. It will often start as a minor irritation, and you can manage the situation with ice, rest, some orthotics and pain relief, but it can quickly develop into a sidelining injury if not managed properly or the root cause treated.
Most athletes who experience the injury will complain of heel pain and a tight Achilles in the morning, with the reason being that tissue shortens for long periods of time with sleep. When you get up the next morning and first place your foot to the ground, the muscle is forced to lengthen, feeling like you have pulled a muscle or it is badly bruised.
So what can you do to rid yourself of the discomfort that this condition can bring? In the short term, we have already mentioned ice, rest, some orthotics and pain relief, and these can alleviate the pain. Other short term options include; don’t walk barefoot, avoid hill and trail training, and get a good foot massage.
Finding the root cause of the injury can be a little more complex. You will need to consider your shoes. Are they worn out and do they need replacing? Are you running in the correct trainers for your running style? The mechanics may not be operating as they should, contributing to the pressure on your plantar fascia. Individuals who have flat feet place a lot of pressure on this part of their foot because they do not have a natural arch, so orthotics would need to be considered and a trip to a podiatrist would be beneficial.
Lastly, you need to be honest with yourself about the flexibility of your leg muscles. Tight calves, hamstrings, glutes and even your lower back can have an indirect impact on the plantar tendon. I am a big supporter of increasing your flexibility to keep injury at bay, and prevention is often better than cure.
I have always found these 5 exercise help:
- Calf Raises
- Step Stretch
- Toe spread
- Towel curls
(If unsure of any of these exercises please watch this video on the Runner’s World website.)
For the time being, I will be using a combination of these techniques, especially the stretches but sadly the only thing I can do is rest and wait. There may be a slim chance I can still make the marathon so I will have to see how the next week goes, and be brutally honest with myself……..