Running disasters: seven tips to keep you moving

Going out for a run? What could possibly go wrong ...

Here's how to deal with seven common mishaps when you're pounding the pavement. 

You get a stitch 

The cause might be a mystery, but the pain in your side is not. Regardless of why a stitch happens – and there are many theories – when it does, it breaks the rhythm of a run.

Stitches don't tend to affect regular runners, so if it's any consolation, the fitter you are the less likely you are to be hit by a stitch. Some people advocate running through it by taking deep tummy breaths either through your mouth or in through the nose for say, three steps, and out through the mouth for four.

Running while pressing gently on the sore side and breathing steadily and out of sync with your stride pattern can help, too. Slowing down to a walk or stopping for a drink can help, but it's difficult to get started again.

You roll your ankle

This is especially likely to happen when you're on a bush track, an ankle roll can cause both pain and shock. The shooting pain is likely to make you stop and even if it doesn't, your run is compromised to a hobble at least for the first few minutes afterwards. If you must stop, then walk for awhile and gradually put a little weight on the sore foot.

The key is to ice, compress and elevate it as soon as you can. Ice it for 20 minutes every two hours for 48 to 72 hours afterwards. Don't massage it; you want to decrease bleeding and swelling in the injured area.

You trip and graze

Once you're over the shock of finding yourself splattered on the ground, there's usually a quick onset of embarrassment. If no one comes to your aid, then you just have to pick yourself up and do a discreet self-examination.

If there's a graze and bloodletting, best to find some water and give the site a really good rub to get any grit out. It'll hurt, but nothing like how much it'll hurt if you leave it till later when the adrenalin from shock has worn off. And you really don't want to get an infection that further delays your return to running. Besides, when was the last time you had a war wound to brag about?


You get chased by a dog 

This can be truly frightening. It can also amaze you – in hindsight – how fast you are capable of running. But it's a hell of a way to find out. Dogs should be on leads, so with any luck you'll outrun any mutt that has a go at you.

As a precaution, it's advisable to take a wide berth of any approaching dog because not all owners can be trusted to rein their pooches in. And leads are trip hazards before you even consider the animal making a meal of your bare leg.

You need to go to a loo

A tricky one, and always easier for the blokes to deal with. Witness scenes at fun runs of blokes lined up at imaginary urinals (aka footpath flowerbeds) to relieve themselves. Bush runs make it easier to take a discreet leak.

In suburbia if the need is more pressing, you've got to be lucky – and persuasive enough – to find a service station that will let you use the restroom.

You get swooped by a bird

One peck on the head is all it takes and you will know not to follow that route again, at least during nesting season between July and November. While cyclists often attach cable ties to their helmets, there's not many options for runners.

You could paint an eye on your cap and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. If you do get swooped, ask the council to erect a warning sign for the benefit of other hapless runners.

You get a cramp 

Ouch. Cramps can come on very quickly and be crippling. You're more likely to get them when your muscles are working harder than they're used to and are fatiguing, which adds to the blow when they do occur.

Sadly if you're in a race, the best way to deal with cramp is to stop and do a static stretch of the stricken muscle. To resume running, start slowly then build your speed up. If you feel a cramp coming on, backing right off the speed can sometimes prevent it.

Are there any running disasters you can warn others about? Let us know in the comment section. 

Pip Coates is a running tragic who knows the euphoria of training for and completing a major race, but also the heartbreak of injury and every bend in the long road back. In between runs she is also the deputy editor of the Financial Review Magazine.

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