George Buckheit, head coach of Capital Area Runners Club. A two-time NCAA All-American in indoor and outdoor track at Bucknell University, he coaches elite distance runners, including two winners of the Marine Corps Marathon.
Buckheit says the most common injuries are shin splints, especially in new runners; tendonitis; injuries to the IT band, a thick cord of tissue that runs along the outside of the leg from the hip to the knee; and plantar fasciitis, a strain on the ligament in the arch of the foot.
“Very frequently, it’s poor footwear,” says Buckheit. “New runners especially don’t take the time to make sure they’re in the right shoes. It’s either the wrong shoe for their gait, shoes with too many miles, or shoes that don’t provide enough stability, support, or cushion.” He recommends visiting a running shop where experts can help you pick the correct shoes. Some stores will do a gait analysis and even videotape you while you’re running so you can see where you need to improve.
How to Prevent Injury
Don’t do too much too soon, Buckheit says. Whether it’s starting a new running regimen or getting back into the sport after time off, build up to longer distances—and higher-intensity runs—slowly. He sees a lot of injuries around the new year even in experienced runners, who start up too quickly after periods of rest and recovery following a busy fall-race season. “Most runners think you have to run hard every day, but the constant pounding can bring out injuries,” he says. “Instead, run hard two to three days a week and build rest days and recovery runs into your routine.”
How to Bounce Back
To recover from an injury, go back to the basics: ice (to get inflammation under control) and rest. Says Buckheit: “Most injuries, if you catch them early, go away in a few days. But don’t try to run through them—that’s how to turn minor injuries into major ones.”