Distance running hurts. I’m not going to lie, sugarcoat it, or decorate it with balloons. It is just part of running a half marathon or farther. Of course, some people are more conditioned and it takes longer for them to hurt, but if they run far enough they all begin to hurt too.
Feet start to ache, you can feel every grove in the road, and every tiny pebble is like a two-inch nail piercing the bottom of your foot.
Ankles protest at the angle of the trail or the road as they lean from side to side.
Hamstrings and glutes scream as you push up another hill, flashing with heat and squeezing with vengeance.
Aches and pains come and stay with you for a mile and then they melt away, sometimes they come back sometimes they don’t.
Hurting is a part of the experience and as a distance runner you have to be able to work through it to keep going. Injury is a completely different ball game. I’m not referring to delayed onset muscle soreness, which we all experience when we push our muscles to new levels.
Hurting and injury are different. You push through the hurt. You rest and recover for an injury.
I wish I could say that telling the difference between being hurt and being injured was always cut and dry, but it’s not.
Injury is marked by sharp pain in a centralized location, which may radiate, but has a definite starting point. Injury pain does not go away as you run either, in fact, many times it gets worse as you run. Injury pain also continues into the next day and longer. Many times it is worse in the morning and then decreases through the day. You can tie an injury to a specific moment in a run or a twist of an ankle, fall, or whatever.
Injury will alter your gait and potentially cause additional problems. Continuing to run on an injury will make things worse and lead to a chronic problem such as tendonitis. If you run while injured, it hurts as soon as you start.
Injury requires RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
Hurting is more of an ache or bruised feeling. You can’t point to a particular spot that hurts because it’s the whole muscle or area. It lasts a day or two, but diminishes and then goes away. If you take one day between runs, it is very minimal on your next run or gone entirely. Sometimes, it will linger as a heavy or tired feeling.
Know your body and listen to it. Push through the hurt, but always rest an injury. This will keeping running for many more happy miles.