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I’ve yet to hear a group of runners gather on the start-line of a race and swap stories that tell of how good they feel and how totally prepared they are for the event. No; instead they share their tales of training woe and try to out-do each other in an injury ‘top-trumps’ sort of way with each ailment brought into the conversation instantly matched and then paled into insignificance by the next – “I’ll see your heel blister and raise you a black toe-nail…”
Listed below are the top 5 injuries – or excuses – runners might use on race day to protect their egos should they fail to put in a winning performance:
1. Runner’s knee
This injury is an all time classic for runners and can be pulled out of the bag on any running occasion where an excuse might be needed simply because it mentions the word ‘runner’. This gives it an air of authenticity and confirms your status as a ‘real runner’ – even if you come in last!
2. Shin splints
A common injury among runners often brought about by dramatic or sudden changes in training practice. This makes it a convenient excuse to use to gain admiration from fellow competitors for having experimented with new training methods rather than have them laugh at you for having embarked upon a last minute Usain Bolt training schedule in an effort to win the parents race on school sports day!
3. Achilles heel
This excuse, like runner’s knee’, can be used on multiple occasions making it ideal for situations when you can’t remember which excuse you used last time. The Achilles tendon can take months, if not years, to recover fully from injury so fellow runners will have no problem accepting this as a reason for a potentially rubbish performance – even though it may be more to do with your insistence on wearing the latest in designer training shoes, however much they irritate your heel!
4. Plantar fasciitis
This painful condition could certainly have interrupted your training schedule but it also sounds complicated enough to put people off questioning you any further. This makes it an ideal start-line excuse as no-one need ever know that the real reason for your infliction is probably more to do with the fact that your training has been a bit sporadic of late and you’ve actually gained six kilos, turning your previous gazelle-like running gait into a flat-footed waddle!
There was a time when this would have been described simply as ‘runner’s trots’ but now the much more medical term of irritable bowel syndrome seems to be favoured as a start-line excuse. Some competitors have been known to miss the start of a race through failing to get out of the toilet on time and many others have experienced the indignity of being caught short mid race – who can forget the images of Paula Radcliffe squatting in a ditch?
In fact, ‘doing a Paula’ is no longer a source of great embarrassment…but it’s no excuse for a pre-race meal of ten kebabs and a few pints of lager!