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Adjusting Your Training Plan Because of Injury

BY Hal Higdon

I often recommend down-sizing programs after injury or illness. That works, but only if the injury is not severe.

Have a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


Help! I ran my first marathon last spring following your Novice 1 training program without issue. I finished in 3:47, which exceeded my 4-hour goal. For this year, I moved up to Intermediate 1 and halfway through the program began to experience sharp pain under my kneecap. Checking with my doctor, he advised me to stop running, ice the knee and come in for a visit next week. I’m worried that this may impact my training. Depending on what the doctor says, I am thinking of backing off my training to one of the novice programs.


I often recommend down-sizing programs after injury or illness. That works, but only if the injury is not severe. Your description of the sharp knee pain worries me, and it obviously worries your doctor. It could be something as simple as an ITB problem, which can be cured by stretching and strength training and the ice mentioned above, or it could be a torn meniscus, requiring surgery. Yes, now you are scared, but that is my intent. You do not want to do something foolish, such as ignoring the pain, which will dig you deeper into the hole. Continuing to run might be classified as something foolish.

So stop running! Perhaps you already have done so, in which case I apologize, but you already have an appointment with your doctor. See what he says. He has an MD behind his name, not me. Your doctor may recommend reduced training (Novice 1 instead of Intermediate 1), and probably he will put you in the hands of a physical therapist. Will you still be able to run that marathon? I don’t know.

In other words, your doctor and I are less worried about your time for this coming race and more about the impact of this injury. Let’s hope he gives you the green light. If not, there remain many other marathons you can run when healthy again.

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About Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for ‘Runner’s World‘ and author of 34 books, including the best-selling ‘Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide’. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that over a quarter of a million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks. Hal uses TrainingPeaks to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans — check out more of Hal Higdon’s training plans on his website.