Runners know pain.
Whether it’s a nagging annoyance or a major injury, if you put the time into training for a long-distance event, you’ll more than likely have to deal with pain at some point.
A common source of running injuries is iliotibial (IT) band syndrome, which can cause serious knee pain.
The IT band attaches to your hip muscles, the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius, and when the band is tight, it rubs against those muscles and leads to excruciating pain on the outside of the knee. IT band syndrome is caused by overuse, and runners often have to deal with it when they’re deep into a training program, putting in serious mileage and close to race day.
When you’re trying to get that training mileage in, you often spending hours on the road that takes valuable time away from the rest of your life. It’s so easy to skip the stretching after your long run in the hopes of getting back to whatever you were missing.
Unfortunately, this can lead to those hip muscles tightening and eventually can lead to IT problems.
I’ve dealt with IT problems several times over the years and can attribute them pretty much exclusively to my lack of flexibility. When I was training to run the Boston Marathon for the first time, I was finishing up my last long run on the race course when I felt that knee pain hit. It was disheartening to be only a few weeks away from Marathon Monday and feel that if this hit me during the race, I probably wouldn’t be able to finish. After all those months of training, it’s a tough pill to swallow. I was used to feeling stiff and sore after my long runs, but this was all new.
Finally, I decided to get a sports massage to at least see if I could get some relief. It was painful and all I could do is go through the marathon taper and get to race day. Then, I would have to hope that I could get through the race without aggravating my IT band again.
I was nervous about it all through the race, but adrenaline and the Boston Marathon experience distracted me. And sure enough, I got through the hills and finished fairly strong without having any problems other than the normal ones caused by the marathon course.
I’ve had occasional IT flare-ups over the years, but nothing on the scale of that first marathon. Still, working on that flexibility is always a concern.
Hip stretches are important (a quick Google search provides plenty of suggested stretches), but you can also find exercises to help strengthen the hip muscles to help prevent IT band syndrome. This can be done using a Thera-Band, squats, a foam roller, etc. Improving your hip flexibility can improve your running and help you avoid future pain.
Starts and stops
The focus is on Thanksgiving races this week, but there are some good new events coming up on the near horizon. The inaugural Festivus 5K for Autism takes place on Sunday, Dec. 9, at 9 a.m. at 76 Wharf St., Salem. The race theme is the Festivus holiday celebration featured on the sitcom “Seinfeld,” and the event will raise money for The Autism Society. Visit www.northshoretimingonline.com/reglivecb.aspx?eventyear_id=37# for more information.
Also, at 10 a.m. on Dec. 9 is Chabad North Shore’s annual Hanukkah Run-a-Latke 5K at 44 Burrill St., Swampscott. The event is open to all with Hanukkah fun at the Chabad Community Shul while the adults race, including building a giant Lego menorah that will be lit at the end of the race. Free latkes and doughnuts for all. Contact Allie Vered at 804-269-6900 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
On the Run is a biweekly column about the North Shore running scene. Send any questions, comments or news to email@example.com.
UPCOMING RACES Tomorrow: Fifth annual Gabe's Run, Patton Park, Hamilton, 9 a.m. The 5K cross country event benefits the Gabriel Picone Memorial Scholarships and takes place on the Hamilton-Wenham Regional cross-country course at Patton Park. The women's race starts at 9 a.m., the men's race starts at 9:45, and a one-mile fun run begins at 10:30. There are also team challenges. Visit www.gabesrun.org/ for more information. Wednesday, Nov. 28: Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William's Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thursday, Nov. 29: No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact email@example.com. Saturday, Dec. 1: Reindeer Run 5K Road Race, Cabot St YMCA, 245 Cabot St., Beverly, 10 a.m. Contact: Andrew Walker (Greater Beverly YMCA) at 978-927-6855, ext. 111, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Sunday, Dec. 2: Jolly Jaunt Danvers 5K Race/Walk & 1K Kids Fun Run, Beverly Hospital Danvers campus, 480 Maple St., Danvers, noon. Contact Diane Agganis (Special Olympics MA) at 978-223-6004, ext. 402, or email@example.com. Wednesday, Dec. 5: Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William's Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thursday, Dec. 6: No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact email@example.com. ¢¢¢ Visit www.northshoreroadraceguide.com/race-calendar for more race listings.