When You Should Stop Running

It's an important question.  
When is it okay for a runner to stop running?

As anyone who reads my blog knows, a few years ago I was an avid marathon runner, 13-14 full marathons a year, and my days were spent training and getting ready to take off for the next race. Although I am currently getting ready to race again, I have been unable to run a marathon for the past 2 years.
I had a work injury, I won't go into it, because the injury I received is not really the point.
But I did want to add this, so when you read my post below, you don't roll your eyes.  I speak on this topic because I've lived it and I truly believe I might have the chance to help someone else from ruining their running life and missing out on a life of a sport they love.

When should you stop running?

Any time there is any pain.
I am not talking about the sore muscles and tired normal achy feeling runners have.  I'm talking about the, something is wrong.  My ankle has been hurting, my knee is hurting, I have a pain in my hip that won't go away, my muscle feels like its being stabbed, sharp pains when I put pressure on the, etc...
Most of the time, a day or two or even a week away from running will likely cure minor problems, or keep a bigger problem from happening.

If the pain has been going on for more than a week.
I know how you feel, you have a race coming up and you think taking time off will ruin that and mess up your training plan.
But the truth is, and I speak from experience.  If your already in shape, unless your an elite runner, a week or two off running isn't going to hurt your chances at the race.  But it just might be exactly what is needed to heal what is hurt and get back to doing what you love and not cause long term problems.

When a Dr. tells you to take time off.  
Now I refuse to go to any Dr. that isn't a runner, and I prefer distance runners.  Regular Dr's who don't run, generally may just tell you to stop.  But if you visit a specialist or Dr. that is a runner and they tell you to take some time off.  You might just become an idiot for not listening to them!  Because a Dr. who is a runner, will do everything they can with your injury to help you keep running or get back to running as soon as possible!

I want to touch on Self Diagnosis...

If you've been a runner for years, this might be something you can do, to an extent.  But if you are new to running, or breaking into new distances and your having repeated or long term problems.  I personally do not suggest Googling it!  Most of the things you'll find online regarding medical diagnosis, are probably not even written by real doctors.  It's best to visit a medical professional and get a correct diagnosis and opinion!

What can you do on your own to fix things?
Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, we all know those.
Depending on the problem, you may need to buy new shoes.  Just because you just paid $150 for a new pair of shoes and had a person at a running store fit you for those shoes, doesn't mean they are the right shoes for you.
Although, those running specialty stores do their best.  Most of them are just high school or college students, and they are just suggesting shoes based on the best of their knowledge.  Sometimes you have to try a few different shoes out to find the right type for you.  Yes, that can be costly, but a new pair of shoes could be far cheaper than MRI's and PT and things that will be required later on if your running around in the wrong shoes that are causing problems.
Believe it or not, the most common running injuries are actually caused by wearing the wrong shoes.
You can try switching things out on your own, but if the pain persists and a week or two goes by with no signs of improvement, its time to realize you might not be able to fix this on your own.

I can't stop, I have a race coming up,
I've spent a lot of money on it. 
I've been training for it all year and my friends will be there.

This is a tough one, and as a person who has had to NOT show up at the starting line for a race I traveled and spent a non-refundable $1800 to be there for not to mention the training time to do.  I understand the pain in this decision.
This is when common sense needs to take over from your desire.
It's probably going to be the hardest decision to make.
But, let me ask you;
Do you love running?
Do you want to have many, many more races in your future?
Do you have many dreams and goals that revolve around running?

Well if you answered yes to even just one of those, then you have your answer.  If you are injured or having pain, and it's not been getting better and you've just been keeping it at bay or numb my icing and drugs.  Then you probably are going to have to do the hardest thing, and not run the race.
Like I said, I have done this.  It's not easy, but now that I look back it was the best choice I could have ever made!

Their are some runners who decide to just run anyway because they are hell bent on being there no matter what.  Maybe or maybe not depending on the injury it works out or ruins them...
But I also like to ask myself this.  If this was the last race I was ever going to run, is this the one and the way I would want to go out?  Sometimes the smartest decisions are the toughest to make!

What can happen when you keep running on an injury?

Well, I'll tell you this.  The particular work injury I had, could I have kept running on it?  For a while, yes! But what would have eventually happened?  Things would have become so inflamed, scar tissue would have built up, and I may have got a year or two if I am lucky in with running with pain.  But eventually, I'd be done and the damage would have been possibly not correctable at that point and eventually I would never be able to run again.

The fact is, some injuries running related or other may take a lot of time to heal.  You may have to put your passion of running on hold for a temporary time so that you can have a life of running ahead.

Some injures especially those that linger (I don't want to get into specifics).  But if they are causing pain, stiffness, soreness or inflammation on a constant basis.  You may be slowly damaging a joint, muscle or tendon and not even know it.  The longer an injury (pain) goes on, the more damage you are doing (scare tissue) and each day you push it, you might as well consider it a possibility that each day pushed, is going to be less and less of a long future in running!

Injuries are tough, heck most of the injuries I have received that had to take me from running, weren't even caused by running.  They occurred doing other things.
We may be runners, and in great shape, but we are vulnerable so its best to remember to always treat your body with care, especially if you have plans on using it to run most of your life!

The hard truth.

I've had many injuries even if they were not from running, and usually like I said above a day or two or even a week or two off was all that was needed to rest and correct the problem to continue on.
But sometimes although I would wish my situation upon no one.  Occasionally you could be out a year or more.  I've spoken to several runners who have had to go through what I did, that have been out 2-3 years or never were able to start back up again.
Why the recovery difference?  Well when I've had the conversations with them, I always ask them. Did you keep running, what did you do?

(And I hope this doesn't hurt any one's feelings who may read my blog, that I've had this conversation with.)
But the ones that were out the longest, and the two that I spoke to who can no longer run.
They did it to themselves and they know it, they kept on running, kept on pushing, hoping that it would just go away on its own.
They would only take care of the problem half way, do what the Dr's said to a point and them made up their mind on the rest on their own.
Now they suffer the consequences of their choices.
If you become injured in any way, the question you need to ask yourself is, do you want to be like those who ruin their bodies and can't run anymore.  Or do you want to be a runner who has to take some time off, but in the end can come back into it better than ever before?


So I write this post, not because I am a Dr. (because I am not, nor am I any kind of medical professional.)  But I write it in the hope that if you are ever in the situation of an injury that has gone on more than a week, and isn't getting better, and you're keeping on running.
My hope is that you re-evaluate and decide what may really be best for you, not just what you want! Seek correct medical advice at the beginning and second opinions when needed.

I have hopes that I am running marathons in my 90's.  But that won't happen if I don't take care of myself now.  Having to stop running temporary or long term isn't easy.  If you are as passionate as I am about running, it's actually darn right miserable to hold back or stop.
But I'd rather look back at my past as say, yeah I had a miserable year (or two).  Instead of looking back and saying, if only I had let it heal, I might still be able to run....

I wish injuries upon no one!  But if you ever find yourself in this situation, maybe the words you read today, will help you make the right choice so that you too can have a full life of running!

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