How to Train for a Marathon Without Getting an Injury

Jul 29, 2020

Believe it or not, over the last 10 to 15 years, it is estimated that 90 percent of those who train for marathons become injured – yikes!

There are a variety of common injuries a runner can get from training for and participating in races. It would be great if all athletes could run pain-free, but that’s not the way it works, unfortunately. We are here to help you run smarter by minimizing the risk of pain as much as possible.


Any aches, soreness or lingering pain from your last workout? Check out this list of common running injuries you are susceptible to when you train for and run a marathon:

Knee Injuries

Did you know that 80 percent of running injuries happen below the knee?

  • Patellofemoral Syndrome – Often referred to as “runner’s knee,” it causes pain in the front of the knee. X-rays, CT scans or MRIs may take place to assess the extent of knee damage. Physical therapy and braces are considered in most cases. However, if more extreme cases arise, surgery can help remove damaged fragments of cartilage or to realign the kneecap to reduce pressure.
  • Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) – The IT band runs from your outer hip to the outside of the knee. When it becomes tight and inflamed, your knee is painful to move. Help prevent it by stretching and warming up properly and taking rest days, as needed. Running on concrete or other hard surfaces can also cause a flare-up, so try to run on flat surfaces. If your pain continues, see a doctor for testing and the appropriate treatment.
  • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) – This connects the femur to the tibia and runs along the inside of your knee to control sideways movement. An injury to the MCL is caused by force making the knee push sideways. This injury causes swelling and instability to your knee. This injury does not require surgery, in most cases. If a more troublesome circumstance occurs, it can be treated with surgery to repair the tear in the MCL.

Hamstring Injury 

  • Hamstring issues – Pulling a hamstring is common for runners. This injury typically takes place with a movement that requires bursts of intense running. Self-care for a pulled hamstring can involve pain medication and rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE). Severe hamstring injuries that require surgery are rare; however, they do happen. When we see an acute injury, we perform imaging tests to see if part of the muscle has detached or if there is a more rigorous tear. Surgery can repair both of these complications with positive outcomes.

Foot/Ankle Injuries 

  • Achilles Tendonitis – Your Achilles tendon connects the calf muscle down to your heel. From a mild ache to potentially worse pain, typically, an activity like running causes it to flare up. If you allow yourself to rest and minimize the event that causes pain, you should see improvement. However, if pain persists, then you should see a doctor. You may receive a recommendation to wear a cast or boot for the tendon to heal. Surgery may be required with severe cases to stitch the torn ligament together.
  • Sprains – Sprains happen in the ankle when walking or running on uneven ground. The RICE method and medication can help treat any pain or discomfort you may be feeling. Surgery may be considered if the ligament is ruptured.
  • Patellar Tendinitis – When the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shin bone becomes inflamed, it develops patellar tendinitis. A repetitive impact on the knee causes this injury to develop. Avoid the activities that exacerbate the tendon and to rest the knee. Putting ice on the muscle can be helpful. With more severe and persistent pain, your doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections or physical therapy. Surgery is rarely needed for tendinitis.

There are minor injuries a marathon runner can obtain from participating in these events, such as, but not limited to:

  • Blisters
  • Shin Splints
  • Dehydration
  • Nutritional Imbalance
  • Cuts
  • Cramps
  • Exhaustion 


Take a step in preventing your running injuries before they begin to develop. Take a breather and look at these tips to avoid damage while training for your next race:


There are many different kinds of races with varying amounts of distances, requirements and fun components. A lot of factors can go into choosing the right marathon for you. Consider aspects from the length, location and scenery when making your decision.


With a distance of about 6.21 miles, this race is suitable for those who would like to run continuously to amount to an achievable goal. Ideally, a 10K requires a few months of training to prepare. It is recommended to run at least 4.9 miles nonstop before attempting your first 10K race.

Half Marathon

The half marathon is 13.1 miles in distance. You’ll need to build up your endurance to adjust to the amount of exertion that will need to take place. It’s recommended to have experience with a few 10K’s before running a half marathon. Build a robust foundational running plan, pace yourself and achieve that goal of completing a half marathon.


A marathon encompasses a whopping 26.2 miles to run. It is recommended to spend four to six months, minimum, training for a marathon. Be prepared with a training plan catered to your goals and abilities.


An ultramarathon is any amount of distance over 26.2 miles. There are a handful of ultramarathons an avid runner can choose from when deciding to continue their running journey. From trails to tracks, these races can take place all around the world with a variety of long distances. Training comes down to preparing for distance and pacing yourself to be comfortable running long distances comfortably.

Stage Races

Stage races are multi-day events that typically take place in off-the-beaten tracks. Distances and amenities in conjunction with these races vary depending on which stage race you choose. As with the other races, preparation and training is key to successfully approaching a stage race.


Whether you get into the holiday spirit with the 19th Annual YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh Turkey Trot or continue training for the 2020 Blue Ridge Marathon Race Series, you should know what to expect:

Before The Race

For the typical marathon, spend at least four to six months of training in preparation. Ask a friend to join you and create a marathon training plan to stay on track and feel confident as you get closer to race day. Depending on your plan, you should run three to five times per week while increasing your mileage weekly.

Consider partaking in low-intensity exercise, like yoga, to rest your legs, allow for recovery while still staying active.

During The Race

It is essential to pace yourself during the race. Running a consistent pace will help you preserve more long-term energy to complete the race before feeling like you’ll burn out. Don’t forget to have fun while you’re running! Use the aid stations to stay hydrated and take breaks as needed. Make sure you are not malnourished on race day. Eat and drink enough to sustain energy and provide you with the effort required to complete your race and meet your goals.

After The Race

You did it! Whether it’s your first or 15th marathon, you should feel proud and accomplished to achieve this long-term goal. Continue to hydrate yourself, fuel your body with proper nutrients and get some well-deserved rest.

If you feel any injuries developing during training or after the race, don’t hesitate to get it looked at, especially if the pain won’t go away. Read our guidebook to sports injuries to find out more information:

Read our guide to sports medicine.


If you have an injury from training for your next marathon, don’t wait to get it looked at. Our professionals at MOA are here to help you heal quickly so you can achieve your race goals. Training for a marathon can be a significant toll on your body, so we want to remind you to take the necessary time you need to rest and give yourself a break.

Schedule an appointment with us today to discuss any pain or discomfort you may be feeling. If you would like to discuss more training for a marathon, please contact us today.

Contact us to schedule an appointment.

Categories: Running Injuries