Marathon in One Week and I Can’t Run Two Miles

Calf Strain

Damn. My hope is to run California International Marathon in Sacramento next weekend in less than three hours and fifteen minutes, which, as a forty year-old man, would be a Boston Marathon qualifying time. I’ve been training for months, have plane tickets and hotel room booked, have a shuttle booked to take me from the hotel to the starting line, my daughters, sixteen years apart in age at twenty-two and six, are planning to run the 2.62 mile run together. Should be an incredible weekend. Except for the fact that I seem to have a very serious calf strain and couldn’t run more than two miles this morning.

Training has been going well. I have been following the “Run Less Run Faster” program this year. After a 1:35 half marathon in the spring I tried out their 10K program over the summer and loved it, ending with a 40:37 10K in August. I rolled my ankle in that race which put me behind on my marathon training but I’ve nailed the workouts the last couple of months, from the track workouts to one twenty-miler.

But something happened in one of my track workouts a couple weeks back and my calf cried for pain. Calf strain. Happens. I know the only real fix is rest. If only the marathon would wait for me. I’d be ready in a few weeks.

If you had an injury such as this one my advice to you would be firm: “If you can run without pain, go for it. When the pain starts, stop.” I’m trying to heed my own advice. I had a 5 x 1000m track workout planned for Wednesday. The pain appeared after 3K. I stopped. Today was a six mile tempo run. After two miles, boom, there’s the calf pain. I walked home.

I’ve been here before. If you’ve ever been here you know. It’s fucking depressing. Lots of time put in. Physical and mental investment. And you know you’ll heal. It’s just timing. Argh.

My plan at the moment:

  1. 1.5 hour walk on Sunday instead of the 10 mile marathon-pace run I was planning
  2. Visit the physical therapist on Monday for light therapy, electro-stim, whatever she recommends (I go to Meredith Soelberg in Santa Monica who is incredibly thoughtful and knowledgeable)
  3. Keep stretching, doing the CrossFit warmup to keep basic fitness without irritating the calf
  4. Dial back calories slightly since I’m going to be less active over the next week
  5. Let go of the time goal, aim to finish
  6. Be ok dropping out of the race if the pain is intense. I have another race (Ragnar Florida) January 4th and there’s no point in seriously injuring myself just to finish CIM. If I DNF (“did not finish”) this race I will find another marathon for 2013. I’m not letting go of the Boston Qualifying goal. It will all come together at some point.

Anyone else have a better plan? Compression socks? Kinesio-Tape? All advice and commiseration is welcome.


Trackbacks & Pings

  1. No CIM for Me in 2012 / What I Talk About When I Talk About Running / What Marathon Should I Target Next? at FISTFULAYEN on 27 Nov 2012 at 9:36 am

    […] I’m not running the California International Marathon in Sacramento this weekend as planned. I have an injury and running Sunday will make it much worse, leaving me on the sidelines even longer. For now […]


  1. tobias peggs wrote:

    mate – hot/cold treatment. Get two trash cans (as tall as your knee). Fill one with water as hot as you can possibly stand, and the other with slushy ice. Stand in the hot for 30 secs, stand in the ice for 30. Keep switching it up for 5 mins. Then repeat 3 or 4 times a day. The hot/cold gets blood rushing in, then out, of the calf, and that speeds up the repair process.

    I’ve been there… 10 days before Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, got a calf strain and couldn’t jog for a mile. Someone on my tri-club email list gave me the hot/cold suggestion and it worked like charm (came 6th in age group).

    the only other thing i would say is: dont run at all this week. You’ve done the training. Anything you do now is only going to risk irritating the injury. It certainly wont help you go faster. You’ve done the hard miles. Now rest up and get ready.

    hope that helps – and good luck!

  2. Michael Tallerico wrote:


    We met at SX and Ascap this year in the spring. Both times you invited me to come run with you but I must say my marathon time has about an hour to go before I can keep up with the likes of you! And you’ve got a full decade on me, so fret not, my friend.

    Do the best you can! Obviously, don’t give up, that would be uncharacteristic of you. I’d say heed your own advice. Neither you nor the Big Bad Boston are going anywhere. Run it to finish. The injury’s in your head already anyway. Even if you run 3:15, you’re going to lament that it wasn’t 3:14 or 3:09 or 2:59, etc., so at this point nothing is going to be good enough. Enjoy Sac-Town and the time with your daughters! Good luck!

    All the best,

    Michael Tallerico

  3. Christian ward wrote:

    Over the past 30 years of running, I’ve learned that speed kills. While speed training is often part of any hopefull Boston-qualifying runner, the delicate balance between pushing your body to limits to improve conditioning and letting up before going too far all too often leads to exactly the kind of injury you are experiencing. Whatever the weak link in our bodies is what gets broken first.

    Sometimes it is better to wait and fight another day. Having said that, the advice from your friend Tobias is worth trying. Ice is a miracle drug and if you are strong enough to endure the hot/cold treatment you might be able to save your marathon. You moght be able to run ot but I would be careful listening to your body while you run so you don’t wreck yourself for another stronger, Boston-qualifying effort next year. The road to Boston is littered with broken down hopefuls who pushed too far.
    You are wise. Boston will still be there. Be well.

  4. iancr wrote:

    Per an email from Meredith, Physical Therapist (link above!) I started taking Bromelain (pineapple extract, baby) in 1500mg tablets. Interesting read on Bromelain from the University of Maryland here.

  5. Michel wrote:


    I’m currently having the same story as you!! 9 days left before the Toronto Marathon and just got a calf strain (grade 1). I’m hopping for a sub 3h15 (40 years old so Boston Qualifier).

    My last half was ran in 1h27 so 3h15 is a realistic goal for me. I just want to know how things worked out for you? Did you made it? If so, what did you do to heal quickly? Just wait doing nothing? I’m doing cold/heat but is there anything else I should do??? Thanks a lot for your help!!!!

  6. Nikki wrote:

    I have the same problem… I will try the hot/cold treatment. If it doesn’t work at least the trash cans will be clean.

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