To run or not to run?

Something doesn’t feel right…

Every runner has experienced it and it’s awful – and no, I’m not talking about the urgent need for a porta potti – I’m talking about when you feel pain. Aren’t runners always in pain? Well, yes. But I’m taking about physical pain that isn’t the usual struggle of pushing yourself (if you stopped whenever you felt that pain you would never run anywhere). I’m talking about when your knee aches, shin splints are acting up, a “hot spot” is getting worse, you rolled your ankle… etc.

“It’s nothing!”

“I’ll warm up out of it.”

“It’s really not that bad.”

– Every injured runner

To run or not to run – that is the question. Pretty sure Shakespeare wrote that. And given the internal turmoil felt when you’re in the midst of deciding if you should push through pain or not, I’m pretty sure it’s from Hamlet.

Trust me, it’s not worth it to hurt it. Your chances of improving pain by running through it are next to none – and the chances of making it worse are much, much, higher (#statistics).

I’ll be the first to admit that in the moment it doesn’t feel so simple. It’s tough to turn around and walk home, miss practice, and/or cut a run short – especially if you’re not hurt “that badly.” It’s even harder to scratch from a race, or cut your season short without feeling like a quitting loser.

Here’s the thing, if it really is nothing, then it will be gone tomorrow. In the light of a new day you can call yourself paranoid, silly, overly cautious, and laugh about it. You’ll probably even feel annoyed and remark “gosh darn it, I totally could have nailed that [insert super impressive workout].” But secretly, you will be very, very, relieved. The potential for relief trumps risk when it comes to injuries. Playing it safe is the finance equivalent of a bond – boring as heck, but a guarantee. Now I’m not advocating for a super safe philosophy for all training, but messing around with an injury has next to no upside

When it comes to pain, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

When you (probably) shouldn’t run:

  1. You feel pain – not soreness/stiffness
    • Note: As a runner, you’re always subjecting your body to stress and it’s natural to feel discomfort. If you had a big workout the day before, have been increasing mileage, or you’re just a regular runner, it is normal to feel sore. Pain is different. You don’t warm up out of it and you might want to limp.
  2. Your coach/physio tells you not to. Listen to them.
  3. Your coworker who knows next to nothing about running but would like to see you race at a track meet in the distant future tell you not to (thanks Emily)


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