For countless running enthusiasts, competing in a marathon — like the annual Deseret News Marathon on Thursday — represents the apex of their sport. They picture the thrill of crossing the finish line, experiencing a strong finish and maybe even, if the stars are properly aligned, a victory.

What they don't envision, however, are injuries derailing their marathon ambitions during the race or even in the training leading up to it.

But for novice and experienced runners alike, overuse injuries can become a common occurrence simply because they don't understand what goes into properly training for a marathon.

"They don't allow themselves to rest," said Dr. Spencer Richards, a sports medicine specialist for Intermountain Healthcare in Davis County. "The body needs time to rest and to recover from the exertion of running. They just keep going at it — harder and harder, longer and longer — and that's where they develop injuries."

Richards and colleague Benjamin Betteridge have treated countless overuse injuries that result from improper marathon training. Common problem areas range from the knees down to the feet.

One of the better methods for avoiding overuse injuries, like tendonitis or shin splints, is to keep track of the frequency and duration of your training. A training log or journal can help you remember what you do from day to day. Planning out with a calendar far enough in advance can also aid in increasing your mileage in small doses.

Betteridge recommends following what is called the 10 percent rule in stepping up training before a marathon.

"You don't want to increase, in one given week, (more than) 10 percent of either the frequency you're running, the intensity, or the time," Betteridge said. "If you increase it by more than 10 percent a week, then you're heading to that red zone of being at risk for these injuries."

In addition to carefully monitoring training, a runner should also wear proper footwear, eat and drink properly and focus on building strength in the rest of the body instead of simply running alone.

Most races, including the Deseret News Marathon, have training programs available on their Web sites.

In the case of a runner already dealing with injuries, options are available to make the recovery process easier. With anti-inflammatory medication, for example, runners have the choice of being prescribed Flector patches by their doctor in lieu of the traditional pills.

The patches act like a form of spot treatment. It releases pain medication through the skin in a localized area.

"It's like a smart bomb," Betteridge said. "Instead of taking a pill that goes all over, and can cause side effects, it's just right at the area."

A set of runner preparation guidelines is available at deseretnews.com/run.


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