Friday, May 8, 2009

Hamstring tendonitis and still trucking along

It's amazing how quickly things can change. Only a few days ago I was riding high from a tremendous 108-mile training week and now I'm nursing an injury. I have come down with a case of hamstring tendonitis, a condition that is common in ultrarunners and a hot injury topic in the ultrarunning world. The discomfort is in the lateral hamstring tendon of my right leg--the tendon behind my knee and on the outside of my leg. At first I thought I was having IT band problems (which I have from time to time), but then I investigated further and realized this was no IT band problem....

After reading up on hamstring tendonitis, it's now obvious that this is what I had last fall going into the Columbus Marathon. One morning last September, I was running hard on the track and suddenly felt pain in what I thought was my IT band. Within a few seconds I felt extreme pain in my hamstring and hobbled home, figuring it was a strain. The injury, which kept flaring up every time I ran fast, ultimately "slowed" me down to a 2:59 at Columbus--5 minutes off my goal. And it cleared up by the new year...or so I thought.

What I now know is that the root problem of my hamstring injury was tendonitis, which can often lead to a strained hamstring (hence what happened on the track that September morning). So it's now clear that hamstring tendonitis is an issue with me that I have to constantly watch over and proactively manage.

Fortunately, my hamstring muscle is so far OK, and the tendon itself is uncomfortable but not painful (yet). With an eye toward the upcoming Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run (June 20-21), I've suspended fast running for now and, regrettably, will likely have to skip the Cleveland Marathon. I'm taking daily ice baths to manage the inflammation, stretching multiple times a day and avoiding steep hills. I can still run well and this week should hit about 80 miles. But running fast and aggressively is a huge no-no because it will inflame the tendon and thus my risk of a strained hamstring muscle rises greatly. So for now the plan is no fast running, no Cleveland Marathon and continued extra effort with stretching and ice baths. I have to protect my hamstrings because there is no way I could complete the Mohican 100 the way I want without both of them functioning at 100 percent as I negotiate the course's 23,000 feet of total climb and descent.

I'm really not that worried because I have six week until Mohican to get well, I'm still running good mileage and I'm already seeing some improvement with the tendon thanks to the ice baths. I'm just really disappointed that the Cleveland Marathon is not going to work out.

Looking at the big picture, I need to rethink my approach to running. I will always be a high-mileage runner (at least for a few more years), but perhaps there are some things I could do to help avoid injuries like this one--things like yoga (just ordered a video), extra stretching (doing that now), strength training (not doing but am figuring out ways to incorporate) and cross training (not really doing). I have reached out to a well-known ultrarunner who lives his life and runs in a way that I really admire and hopefully he can help provide me with some ideas on new approaches. We'll see what he says and I'll share his name if he agrees to help me as my coach.

I will continue to leave updates on here. Please let me know if you have any experience with hamstring tendonitis and what worked for you.


  1. Just got struck with HT...inner part where it attaches to the knee...much less of a distance runner but one nonetheless...about 4-5 weeks outside a 30K race, too. Took one week off and tried to run again- too much pain after 40 Canada...

  2. Last week I did the exact same thing while running. The doctor said I have hamstring tendonitis, behind and above my knee on my right leg. I have never had this kind of problem. I am doing a trail marathon in 20 days. My first ever. I have been training for months I took last week off and then decided to do a century bike ride yesterday off the couch for some cross training. My hamstring was fine but it didn't make it better. I am continuing to ice and take advil. I know running will make it worse but I don't want to not run for 20 days before the marathon. The doctor said just don't run hills right now but even walking is uncomfortable. Any advice? Thanks

  3. Anonymous: Wow, that was an old post by me--many years ago. I think one of the best things you can do for hamstring tendonitis is to avoid sitting for long periods of time and ideally stand a lot throughout the day. I think it's an annoyance you can run through. It's very different than a full-blown hamstring strain, which does require rest. Good luck!