Cross-Training Through a Running Injury

BY Hal Higdon

Sometimes the best decision is to get healthy first, then decide which "other" race will be next.

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.


After Week 9 of your Novice 2 marathon plan, I began to suffer from IT Band Syndrome. I took a week off, rolled the muscle a lot, then attempted the Week 10 long run. I only made it a half mile before the pain became too much. Now ten days have passed without my running. I’m going to have ART (Active Release Therapy) this week, then try to continue my marathon build-up by cross training, doing my “long runs” on a bike or elliptical. How long can I go without running before I fall way too far behind? Should I start wrapping my head around a later marathon?


First a disclaimer: I am not a doctor so I shy away from giving medical advice. Any advice you receive on the internet, even from a doctor, is probably suspect. The only diagnoses that make any sense for a case like yours is hands-on. “Does the IT band hurt?” (The sound of you screaming.) “Okay, cross train for another week.”

Disclaimer aside, yes, you can cross train to the starting line, but will that get you to the finish line? I honestly don’t know. I suspect that within the next several weeks, you need to find out whether you can survive even a short run of a few miles without that scream mentioned above. If you can run pain free for even a few miles, you may be able to ease your way up to somewhere near the ultimate 20-miler prescribed in Novice 2. Don’t get too close. You may singe your wings. Sometimes, the best decision is to get healthy first, then decide which “other” race will be your next one.

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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.