When Should I Worry About...

4 Ways to Avoid a Running Injury on Race Day

March 2, 2020

An injury can become a runner's ultimate race-day spoiler. But there are simple ways to avoid injuries and enjoy running.

"Most people who get injuries are new to running," says Dr. Nickolas Boutris, orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at Houston Methodist. "But all runners should be conscious of common injuries while training so they can perform their best on race day."

Dr. Boutris identifies these injuries that may plague runners:

  • Achilles tendon injuries. This painful overuse injury happens when the large tendon in the back of the ankle becomes irritated and inflamed. It's most commonly found in middle-aged runners.
  • Knee injuries. When knees twist suddenly while bearing weight, the meniscus (aka the shock absorber of the knee) can tear. A meniscus tear may also occur with the tearing of an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
  • Sprains, strains and muscle pulls. Ankle sprains and strains generally occur due to tripping over an unseen obstacle or inadequate stretching. Small muscle tears can affect nearly any muscle that is overused.
  • Stress fractures. This type of injury is often caused by overtraining, insufficient calcium or a flaw in training style, such as an uneven running stride.


"Ignoring an injury or nagging pain can turn into a big problem if left undiagnosed," Dr. Boutris adds. "You could be risking further damage to an injury that may be fixed with a relatively simple treatment."

Take these steps toward pain-free training

"There are steps you can take to minimize pain and injuries while training," Dr. Boutris says.

Choose proper footwear

When running a marathon, the last thing you want to do is to make missteps when it comes your running shoes. Rather than wear shoes that are too new, too old or just aren't right for your foot, visit an athletic or specialty running-shoe store where the sales staff is knowledgeable about what shoe type works best for your running style. And, keep in mind, sock type can also be important in avoiding blisters.

Race-day tip: Stick with what you know. On the morning of the race, wear shoes and socks you know you can run in comfortably.

Assess your fitness level

An assessment provides a benchmark of your fitness based on strength, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance to help you set realistic training goals. Ask your doctor or a certified trainer how to perform an assessment and set training goals.

Race-day tip: Track your mileage and taper the length and intensity of your workouts in the weeks leading to the race.

Cross train

Overuse injuries can easily occur if your training only includes runs. Cross-training helps you increase cardiovascular endurance while giving your running muscles a break. Add workouts in the pool, on an elliptical machine or on a bike to break up your routine.

Race-day tip: Cross-train as you taper to maintain flexibility and strength without fatiguing your running muscles.


A safe way to avoid an injury is to stretch before and after training — every time you run. Develop a routine that involves stretching the major muscle groups of both your upper and lower extremities. Stretching and staying hydrated are the two most important "to-do" items on your race-day checklist.

Race-day tip: Make time for stretching in your race-day routine.

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