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How much does it hurt?

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney  February 25, 2010 09:07 AM

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Going the distanceGlobe correspondent Elizabeth Cooney is writing about the Boston Marathon in the series "Going the Distance," which appears in the Globe's G Health section. She's also training for it, and hopes you'll check in with her along the way.

Michelle Colman does not want to see you in the medical tent at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. But if you do find yourself there, she'll be in section 13.

That was the tone the Peabody physical therapist set at this month's Boston Athletic Association clinic. As much as runners dream of pain-free training, she knows there will be bumps in the road now and on race day.  She gave the crowd of runners at Marathon Sports specific advice on how to avoid problems at this stage, geared to the familiar pain scale of 0 to 10.  And she was reassuring. "You can run with pain. That is allowed."



But how much? To set the stage, here's how she defined 0 and 10. If you cross the finish line on April 19 and say you're at 0, "I'd like to know what you're taking," she said. If you say 10, you're probably in an ambulance.

So with those parameters, let's see what she says about training aches and pains. It's not too late to log your runs, noting how different courses and conditions affect your body.

If you peg your pain from 0 to 4, that's OK. If you feel anywhere above 4, it's time to back off the next day so you can recover. The day after, if you're still in 5 or above territory, something's not right, she said, and you need to look at what's aggravating your body.

If a patient tells her the pain is a 6, she's worried. That means the pain interferes with activities of daily living, such as getting out of bed or going down stairs. "If you're hanging onto the railing with two hands, going down sideways, maybe you need a doctor's visit."

That's when a training log can be helpful, to see what might have caused the pain. Was it a certain route? How much of it was on pavement? How far did you go?

When people tell her their pain is 7 or 8 out of 10, they usually have already stopped running. But for other folks lower down on the scale who aren't avoiding the stairs, "ice and ibuprofen are your best friends in the last weeks of training."

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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