Tag Archives: Running injuries


The Narrative Series (1) | Marathon de Sables by George Griffin

Marathon des Sables

My old friend George Griffin has kindly agreed to write about his incredible experience of running the Marathon des Sables. This is part of a series of guest blogs, The Narrative Series, where I have asked individuals to tell their stories that feature pain in different contexts and environments. Pain perception is influenced by the meaning that we ascribe to the feeling and there is of course an enormous difference between a pain that we know will end and a pain that appears to have no end in sight. The understanding of pain is moving on rapidly via the research being undertaken worldwide, followed by newer treatments and approaches that tackle the different dimensions–physical, cognitive & emotional. We know that pain can change and that we can positively influence the experience by creating the right conditions.

In April 2008, I took part in the 23rd Marathon des Sables (MdS), a 150-mile footrace across the Moroccan Sahara, reputedly the toughest on earth. The MdS is undoubtedly a grueling undertaking. The distance is split into six stages ranging from 12 to 50 miles and covers a mix of terrain including energy-sapping dunes, roasting salt-flats and steep, rocky jebels. Temperatures often peak at over 50°C and can drop to near freezing at night. Competitors must carry all their own food and equipment, which can tip the scales at about 15kg including your water ration.

Although there is a first class medical set up, competitors need to be pretty self-sufficient when it comes to looking after their health and wellbeing. I was pretty sure I could get to the finish line but wasn’t sure what state I’d be in. My biggest concern was being withdrawn by the medical team due to blisters, dehydration and/or sickness.

Ultimately, I finished 281st out of the 747 who completed the race (801 started) having covered the distance in a cumulative time of 40 hours and 20 minutes. I was the 30th of 250 British competitors, which sounds a bit better! Fortunately, I had avoided illness but my feet had suffered badly and certainly slowed me down. Both heels and insteps were badly blistered (and infected) and I had lost four toenails. Psychologically, it had been a complete rollercoaster – the joys of new friendships and the beauty of the Sahara contrasted with the mental exhaustion and periods of loneliness and isolation.

And yet I would consider the MdS to be one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. This often surprises people, particularly when they see the pictures of my post-race feet! I think that I got through the MdS using a combination of imagination and curiosity. Imagining crossing the finish line. Imagining the deep, warm bath and cool beer back at the hotel. Imagining how much money I was raising with every mile covered. And imagining how proud my family and friends would be.

Marathon des SableI think, with a vivid imagination and a deep sense of curiosity, I was able to short-circuit the ‘you need to stop, NOW!’ messages that my feet and muscles were sending to my brain with every step. Each morning, when shuffling to the start line, I was curious about the day ahead. Who would I meet? What new sights would I see? What would I learn? How much would it hurt?

Did I think of quitting? Yes, many, many times (along with the elaborate excuses I would use), but ultimately I knew that the blisters, sore muscles and fatigue weren’t going to kill me. They would hurt but they weren’t terminal. Eventually, it would be over and I would be sipping a beer back at the hotel.

And, of course, it’s all relative. There are people who suffer constant pain and don’t volunteer for it like I did. In that respect, the MdS is a warm, sandy run in the desert rather than the toughest footrace on earth.

George started his career as an Army Officer where he spent eight years in various roles before making the transition to the commercial world in 2004. After a short period as Operations Manager for a corporate events firm, George joined an HR consultancy in a business development role before taking over the Learning and Development practice in 2010. George joined Merryck in April 2013 and is responsible for ensuring that our clients receive the best possible service.

Follow George on Twitter here and @painphysio here


London Marathon 2013 | Dealing with the aches and pains

Most runners will have put in the hard yards by now and are set to go. Undoubtedly there have been quite a few aches and pains along the road so far. Sadly this will prevent some people from participating, say in the case of a stress fracture – click here.

It is entirely normal to experience pain as a result of exercising. We expect it after new or unaccustomed activity and recover quickly, often independently and sometimes with assistance (e.g./ physiotherapy, massage). The marathon will be no different as limbs and bodies will be sore on Sunday afternoon and evening, most likely building into Monday and Tuesday before starting to settle. This kind of sensitivity is an adaptive response to the demands placed upon the tissues and physiological systems. In essence it is the body asking for a rest, motivated by the unpleasant sensations.

If there have been more significant niggles during the training period, these may flare-up and require professional attention. For example an issue with a tendon. A diagnosis followed by a comprehensive treatment and rehabilitation programme will be needed to address such a problem or an injusy sustained on the day of the race.

For further information about post-marathon treatment and recovery please contact us on 07932 689081

Clinics in Chelsea – Harley Street – Temple – New Malden

Common running injuries include: shin splints, anterior knee pain, ITB syndrome, iliotibial band syndrome, hip pain, hamstring pain, calf strain, ankle sprain. We see the more persisting and recurring running injuries at our London clinics, delivering comprehensive treatment and rehabilitation programmes that are based on the latest neuroscience.


Why does my knee hurt when I run?

The success of the London 2012 Olympics has had a huge impact upon society including the greater participation in sporting activities. This is a truly vital legacy and we must seek to pervade this healthy mindset to all corners of the country and across all the age ranges to optimise the benefits.

Those seeking immediate gratification will have pulled out the old trainers, dusted off the bike in the shed or grabbed the shorts (or briefs) and visited the local pool – see Get Active London. This is indeed a welcome shift towards more active lifestyles at a time when we have increasing understanding of the benefits of regular exercise for both body and brain.

Turning our attention to a consequence of either taking up running for the first time or re-starting having had a break, inspired by the mighty achievements of our athletes, there can be a few aches and pains in the knees. Sometimes the onset will be quick and at other times gradual. I will look briefly at why this can happen, remembering that when you increase your level of exercising it is usually quite normal for there to be some pain afterward. If you are unsure it is advisable that you seek the opinion of your local health professional as soon as possible so that the correct treatment and management is started.

Training methods

A sudden change in the demands upon our joints, particularly the knees in running due to the impact, can trigger local sensitivity in the joint and surrounding tissues. We should think carefully about the baseline, or start point from where the programme can be progressed. Too much too soon will hurt and especially if there is not adequate time between exercising bouts for a good level of recovery in the early stages. It may not be the first time out but the second or third that the pain begins.

The shoes that are used are vital. You do not have to spend a small fortune on the latest running kit but it is sensible to have a good trainer that is suitable for your foot type and provides the right kind of support. If you have pulled out an old, smelly pair of runners from under the stairs, you may have problems. Make a visit to a good quality running shop, for example Run & Become.

Where you decide to go running will determine the loading upon the joints. Start easily and gradually build up the time and speed, thinking about where you are training. Up and down hills and uneven grouns will pose more of a challenge of course.

Old injuries

If you have had a problem with your knees before, re-starting running could re-ignite the pain. It is not totally out of the question to take up running again, but you should ensure that the motor control, movement and proprioception is adequate and then gradually build the intensity. It will be best to seek advice in this case as there maybe some essential rehabilitation training that is required before starting the running programme.


There will be many people enthusiastically exercising as a result of the Olympics and this is to be commended. It is important to really consider how to start training, the baseline and progressions and using the right equipment.

If you have any questions please contact us here or call 07518 445493


Training for the marathon – developing pain & injury

At this time of year, as the London Marathon nears, runners reaching new levels of training can start to develop aches and pains. Usually the pains are in the legs or feet and often begin as an annoyance but develop into a problem that means training has to stop.

The tissues are constantly breaking down and rebuilding. This is a carefully orchestrated process that is impacted upon by exercise. This is how we develop muscle bulk. However, we do need a period of adaptation that can be disrupted if there is inadequate rest. The balance tips towards tissue breakdown and inflammation triggers the development of sensitivity that if ignored can progress and become amplified. A good training programme should account for both rest periods and gradual progression of intensity.

A second issue is that of control of movement. On a day to day basis we can walk around, undertake normal activities, play sports and even run for certain distances with minor motor control issues. Motor control refers to the way in which our body is controlled by the brain with a feedback-feedforward system. The tissues send information to the brain so that there is a sense of position and awareness, allowing for the next movement to be made and corrected if necessary. The problem lies in the increasing distances, often never reached before, that can highlight these usually minor issues. Compensation and extra strain upon muscles and tendons that are trying to do the job of another can lead to tissue breakdown as explained previously. The sensitivity builds and training becomes difficult.

A full assessment of the affected area, body sense and the way in which movement is controlled will reveal factors that need addressing with treatment and specific exercises. This fits alongside a likely modification in the training programme that allows for the sensitivity to reduce before progressing once more. In some cases a scan or other investigations are recommend to determine the tissue nature of the problem.

If you are starting to develop consistent twinges that are worsening, pain that is affecting training or you are concerned, you should seek advice.

For appointments at one of the clinics please call 07518 445493

  • 9 Harley Street
  • The Chelsea Consulting Rooms
  • Temple
  • New Malden Diagnostic Centre