It’s been six weeks since my first marathon and during that time I’ve been in a bit of a funk. I loved the marathon experience and I remain glad that I did it. However, the physical and emotional letdown afterward took me by surprise. I knew to expect a little post-marathon depression. Lots of people experience that and it seems pretty normal to me. You’ve focused so intensely on a goal for four to six months, and looked forward to race day for so long, that when it comes and goes you are left at a bit of a loss, asking yourself, “Now what?” Usually those post-race blues are cured by signing up for another race. Yet I did that — I signed up for an 8K and another marathon — and it didn’t work for me.
What’s my problem then? Nagging injuries. The first was posterior shin splints in my left leg. As I recovered from the marathon, the pain in my inner lower leg increased to the point where I worried that I had a stress fracture. You might laugh at how I managed to resolve that question. When my anxiety about a stress fracture reached a peak and I was thisclose to calling a sports medicine orthopedist, I kept feeling around on my tibia to see if I could isolate a point of pain in either the bone or the attached calf muscle. In doing so, I massaged away the worst of the pain and I noticed some improvement. With that discovery, I started doing ice massage on the calf with a frozen water bottle, in addition to doing the calf stretches that helped me recover from plantar fasciitis. I think tight calves contributed to both the plantar fasciitis and the shin splints and I simply need to be dedicated to stretching my calves throughout the day and not just after running.
It’s also possible that the shin splints developed when my gait inadvertently changed to compensate for nagging injury #2. I’m not sure what to call that one. It’s a groin strain injury, located in the hard-to-describe area of the inner back thigh, running from the right buttock crease laterally toward the groin. As best as I can tell, it’s the adductor magnus muscle, and more specifically the “hamstring portion” of the adductor magnus muscle. It’s the muscle used to “adduct” the thigh — move it inward toward the other thigh. I feel it most when I try to balance on the affected leg (for example, when I balance on my right leg to pull on my left pants leg). This injury slows my running pace and, at its worst, affects my gait.
I have used the post-marathon period to cut back on running to see if it would let that muscle rest and heal. However, I found that resting the muscle caused it to tighten up and that increased the pain. There’s a balance in there somewhere — running just enough to stimulate blood flow to that muscle and keep it loosened up while not running so much that it aggravates the strain. Now I have a three-pronged plan in place to heal from the adductor magnus strain:
1. Run moderate amounts at a steady pace.
2. Strengthen the other groin, thigh, gluteal and abdominal muscles to support the adductor magnus.
3. Massage the adductor magnus muscle. This article (which is trying to sell a pain relief patch I know nothing about, but I appreciate its explanation of the groin muscles and trigger points) describes how:
The rear trigger point which causes pain inside the pelvis is found near the inside of the crease at the bottom of the buttock. This is best found and massaged with the help of a sensitive partner, a Thera Cane, or a ball. If using a ball, a lacrosse ball usually works best, but a tennis ball is okay. … In practice, you will put the ball under the crease of the buttock while this leg is resting up on a hard chair or table. … Rather than keeping the leg you’re working on straight … you may find it more comfortable to half-sit on the table on the buttock that you’re working on, while standing on the other leg. If you find any significantly tender points, particularly if they reproduce or alleviate the pain you have been experiencing, do some gentle massage.
Have you ever experienced post-race blues? Are you currently dealing with any injuries? Ever strained your adductor magnus? Help me!