Ok, The Portland Marathon is only 8 weeks away and I’m still not sure if my legs will hold out for a 26 mile walk. For the first time in my short walking career, I’m more concerned about the muscle cramps , than I am about my breathing. At least with my lungs, I know that if I’m not breathing well on a particular day, that I just wont race that day. No DNF and no real loss ( except the entry fee and some pride) .
It’s a different story with the leg cramps though , because they don’t effect my performance until I’m already out 10- 12 miles on the course. That’s OK for a 13 mile race, but not for a 26 miler. Since I’ve yet to walk more than 13 miles, I can’t tell if this is going to be a problem in the longer distances.

During my last two half marathon , I developed severe muscle cramps towards the end of the race. In both those instances, I started developing severe calve and thigh cramps as I entered the last mile of the events. In particular, the Kaiser Permanente half marathon which I did last February , I developed a leg cramp as I was entering the finishing shoot ! The muscle spasms actually progressed into a “full body” cramp that keeled me over right there in the chute just short of the finish line. It was so bad that they sent the paramedics over to massage my legs and stand me back up, so I could cross the finish line.

Now I know that in at least one of those instances, I was totally to blame. I obviously didn’t do enough distance training and I certainly didn’t hydrate. I believe I did a slightly better job of hydrating at the SFM, but still I had severe cramps at the finish line. I’m beginning to wonder if my racewalking is part of the problem. You definitely overuse your calve and shin muscles when you racewalk. Could this have anything to do with it? I do stretching exercises religiously .

Regardless of whats causing these cramps, my question for the Pros is this.. How do you treat leg cramps when they occur DURING the race? Can you continue to walk/run after the spasms stop or is it too late at that point?

I always know when a cramp is imminent because I can feel the muscle start to wiggle and twitch. By that time there’s usually nothing I can do except to prepare for a full blow cramp and get away from people so they don’t see me scream. What do you do when this happens? Do you just call it quits or do you try to massage it out and keep plugging away? Sorry, to be such a wus , but thats some painful shit.

I will of course, re-evaluate this whole cramp business after I do my 18 and 20 mile LSDs in a couple of weeks. Perhaps a combination of SLOW walking and proper hydration will make a difference. I guess I’ll wait till then to make the final decision on Portland.

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8 thoughts on “Advise Please

  1. Arcaner says:

    I;m not a pro by any means, but proper stretching during training can go a long way to preventing cramps at least in my experience.

  2. Annette says:

    I haven’t had to deal with leg cramps like that – during a race, but I’ve found that a good sports massage (not too close to race day) really loosens those muscles up.

  3. Lora says:

    How is your potassium/sodium intake? Are you taking in enough Gatorade or the like? Also, consider a Magnesium pill. Just some thoughts.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I have the same problems sometimes during my own marathon runs. Lora is correct, it is most likely an electrolyte imbalance. Look into Succeed caps (salt and potassium), they work great. They sell them at a reasonable price at zombierunner.com

  5. Steve says:

    Thanks Anonymous! I’ll check out that product.

  6. Anita says:

    I know you’ve already thought of this but since muscle cramps during physical exercise are often an indication of inadequate blood flow which in the chain of things is caused by lack of oxygen, isn’t this related more to your asthma than to inadequate electrolytes or stretching? I’m wondering if there’s ever been a correlation for you in a race as to how your breathing is at the point the muscle cramps kick in….

  7. Reen says:

    I agree you probably need more potassium. I buy potassium gluconate at Costco and take one everyday. I used to get horrible night cramps but once I started taking the potassium they have stopped completely. If I miss a couple of days they come back!

    Keep up the good work – you’re an inspiration!

  8. Scooter says:

    I’m late with this, but bananas are considered by many to be the standard food based potassium (K)supplement. Many fruits and veggies are high in K. My experience has been that if you take potassium as you get twitchy, it’s later than ideal, but you can usually avoid full-blown cramps. Pay attention to upping your fruit and veggie intake before the race.

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