May 27, 2008

The Day After the Marathon

I’m sure most of you have seen this video by now, but I’ll post it anyway:

Most people in that video were me yesterday – my mom and friend Kristen had both seen the video, and kept pointing out how much I resembled then. They laughed when, at Friendly’s, I saw some guy limping along and knew to say “congratulations!” (This is also how I identified marathoners the day after Boston).

I’m surprisingly fine today though. My gait is pretty normal, and I don’t really look like a day after marathoner at all. My only problem is my right hip flexor. I’m actually really worried about it, because I don’t get why my right one is in agony while my left is totally fine. My right is basically very, very tight, and it’s almost impossible for me to lift my leg using leg muscles alone. Walking is fine (though I haven’t tried heels yet, which I’ll need to wear to work tomorrow), because it’s a back-and-forth movement rather than an up-and-down. Stairs however, are a major problem.

On my way to a barbecue on my friend Adam’s roofdeck this afternoon (5th floor, no elevator), I literally stopped at the bottom and just stared up the many flights I was supposed to climb (see that video for a pretty good imitation). My two options are putting the left foot on each step and then using my body to just drag the right foot up to meet it like a toddler taking the stairs one at a time (like I said, my left flexor is fine), or using both legs as usual but using my hands to pick up and support my right thigh so that it doesn’t have to lift the weight of the leg itself. Both look pretty stupid.

My old manager Rob (who I watched in the NYC Marathon last year and who arguably got me interested in marathons in the first place) said that he had the exact same problem after his marathons, and that it was necessary to take two to three weeks off running completely. That if I tried to run, it would mess it up all over again, and that walking is the only fitness activity I should try. And I get that it’s injured and that I should let it rest. If I need to do that, fine. But I’m more interested in why it’s like that. I didn’t have a single bit of soreness in my hip flexors after my 22.5 mile long run (or any other run, for that matter), and I’m not sure why adding 3.7 miles would give me this problem in such a severe way. And more than that… why is it just in the right hip and not in the left? Not even a little bit in the left?

I suppose I should go to a doctor, but I’ll save that for if it’s not better in a few days. For now: has anyone else experienced this? What caused it? What do you do?


14 thoughts on “The Day After the Marathon”

  1. Congrats. I don’t think I’ve had the hip flexor specifically, but there are lots of little things that end up damaged from marathons. There’s oddly a big difference from the long run to the marathon. I typically run five or six 20-mile runs in training, yet the trauma isn’t even close. I don’t like to go much beyond 21 in training. The chances of injury go way up beyond that. The human body seems fine with 20-21 miles, but not much more.

    My advice: give it a week of not running at all. Walk a lot and maybe swim to get blood circulating to flush out dead tissue. It’ll get better. Then, when you’re ready to run again, work on strengthening your hip abductors. You most likely have an imbalance.

    Congrats again. The first tends to be the hardest, though they’re all hard.

  2. That ad always makes me laugh (no matter that I’ve seen it a billion times before.)

    Brian is probably right about an imbalance. Other times if you have a slight problem with one area (such as say, your knee) another part might over-compensate and end up injured.

    Ice, rest, low impact cardio, and strengthening exercises should help. If the pain doesn’t start to subside in a few days or it’s an acute pain you should go see your Dr.

    Congrats again!

  3. I would just soak in an ice bath, as long as you can stand it. It may not seem like it now, but you will feel better in about a week or so. Whatever you do, dont do any racing or speedweek for atleast a month.
    But I can tell you this: As soon as you pick your running back up, you will be sooooo much faster.

  4. I hurt my right hip flexor when I was training for my first half (all 5 weeks of it…haha). I think I increased my mileage too quickly and my hips weren’t strong enough to handle it. Does yours pop or click? Mine did…but eventually it got better. I took 3 days off before the half…and 2-3 off after. And slowly it just got stronger. Try cross training to strengthen those other muscles around it such as…HEY! BIKING?!? TRIATHLONS?!?! WHAT? I hear the Chattanooga waterfront tri is a blast and serves beer at the end?! haha

  5. I had a hip flexor issue after my marathon last year. Rest cured me. You probably lost some form at the end of the race and like others said started running with imbalance.

    Great job on your first marathon. I will not mention that you also beat me.

  6. Just one other point of reference – my flexors go if I run too long on the side of a road (because roads dip a little at the sides for drainage). Whichever side is lower, that’s the hip that hurts. Maybe you were instinctively staying to the right?

  7. Another tip: Try going up/down the stairs backward. Doing this uses different muscles than you were using in the race.

    And…if it’s not better in a few days, go see an orthopedist, especially if you’re still in pain. They have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves.

  8. Sounds like you might have strained your hip flexor 🙁 I agree with Brian – no running for a week, and if it hurts again get to a doctor stat.

    You really rocked your first marathon though – I’m so happy for you!!

  9. Great job!!! I only get that lop-sided pain in one and not the other if I find myself turning “right” all the time like around a track or a really odd course around the hood (which I doubt you did too much turning and all, but it happens). Uneven pavement too – our roads are super-sloped for drainage so I try to stay towards the middle or make sure I spend equal time on either side running “crooked.” I noticed after the 10K I did earlier this month that my “power leg” that I push off with first to pass people would get overzealous and really did ache the day after… that odd deep-ridden ache inside the joint. I didn’t much like stairs then either.

    I can’t say it enough – great job!!! You are such a rock star!

  10. Hi! I’m just catching up here. First – CONGRATS you Marathoner YOU!!!! Yeah. Your time kicked my time’s ass for sho.

    My only advice for marathon running is to get a good Physical Therapist. I wish I would have gotten mine earlier in the game. They can help you figure out the “WHY” that you want to know. Now if I start to notice any weird things, I go to him and he checks me out and gives me some excerices or stretches to help the problems.

    Now on to read your report….

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