Rebuilding An Ultra Runner – From Injury To The Hardmoors 60 Part One

Hi, I’m Matty and my love affair with Trail Running has proved a test at times. But I have learnt a lot and think my story may be helpful and ring true to many others out there…so here it is.

Bad Habits, Naive Training And The Blowout

I’ve always been into sport, my plunge into the world of Ultra Running came from circuit training (body weight exercises.) I entered the Hardmoors 55 as my main goal for 2015 with a few half marathons thrown in for good measure. Preparation consisted of 3-4 circuits a week HIIT training and about 10 miles per week running.

Niggles started in my knee after a few miles of running, but I’d persevere, this pattern repeated itself for the majority of my runs. The half marathons went OK with decent times and places but my knee pain was getting progressively worse. Not aided by my habit of training at 110% intensity every session with little room for rest.

The day of my first Ultra, the Hardmoors 55 arrived and it all fell apart. My bag was stuffed full with everything and anything which led to a negative start, then the pain began. My knee started up within the first mile and got progressively worse until after 11 stupid, stubborn miles I DNF’d. Trudging back to the last checkpoint, dejected and with a tear in my eye, I knew recovery could take months.

Searching For Answers

With 3 months out I set about finding solutions and booked a GPs appointment, who referred me to a physio. 2 months later the physio failed to find a problem, asserting the knee had strength and seemed fine to touch and manipulate. Determined to find an answer I was sent for an X-ray, MRI and muscular skeletal practitioner…all three came back with zero answers! The doctor then claimed he could do no more, his next words went down like a lead balloon…’Maybe you should quit running altogether’.

A few weeks passed before Laura, my wife, suggested another physiotherapist and PT Instructor who has dealt with his own knee pain and best of all, competes in Ultras! I deliberated a day or two over the cost and whether it would work, then booked an appointment. This was the best move I ever made. He did an assessment of my posture, running form, strengths and weaknesses with muscle balance and it turns out my knee pain was down to poor bio-mechanics and posture. (I will write in detail about my training and overall approach at a later date.)

One Tip You Must Take To Overcome Injury

My first tip to anyone reading this, see a professional who specializes in your chosen sport. It can be the difference between a fix or waste of time. I was instructed to stop running for three months and work purely on stretches, strength and conditioning twice a day, six days a week. After 3 months the S&C was reduced to make way for slow integration of running and bit by bit the mileage picked up. That was when I booked a second crack at the Hardmoors 55, for 2016. Feeling confident again in my ability, I invested in the right kit. A decent trail running pack, bladder and lightweight gear etc.

I couldn’t believe it, 10 months after being told to give up running I was clocking up 35 miles a week injury free…then boom! Car crash…

And like all good stories we’ll continue in part two. I don’t want to overload you so keep an eye out for the next installment. There are plenty more twists and turns to come.

Continue reading part 2 here

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Matty McNamara

Struggling through injury Matty spent months developing his muscle balance and progressed his training to run some of the toughest Ultra's in Yorkshire. Hardmoor's 60 and 30 ticked off, Matty plans to run the Hardmoors 200 mile race in May.

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