Ask Drew: Should I Risk Running Through The Pain?

This is the first installment of our Ask Drew (Hunter) series on MileSplit. The accomplished Tinman Elite professional and adidas distance runner -- a recent qualifier to the World Championships who had to pull out due to injury -- has taken time to answer heartfelt questions from the high school cross country community that are on your mind. Drew is a 2016 graduate of Loudoun Valley High School and is one of the best to ever do it in the prep ranks. If you would like to ask a (serious) question for Drew, send your thoughts to 

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Hey Drew:

I'm currently a senior coming back from three stress fractures in my leg. I've been training for a couple months now and I'm close to 40 miles a week. It's been pretty tough, though my doctor told me it would take my leg two years to fully heal and I obviously don't have two years if I'm trying to make it to college.

So my leg does hurt sometimes, but I've been careful about my training and recovery. I just was wondering what you would do if you had to run on a injury that is manageable on some days, but others not so much? I'm doing all the little things. I just feel like there might be more something I'm missing that could help me feel stronger and progress. 

- Managing Pain in California

Hey Cali:

I've recently been dealing with some of the same issues. This isn't uncommon for runners, and especially runners who are trying to get the most out of their bodies in training and competition. My best suggestion would be to always think long term with regards to your injury and running. If the pain is manageable and doesn't progress into something worse, then it is OK to run on knowing you need to get in consistent training. However, if the injury is affecting your running form and potentially leading to long-term issues within the sport, then yes, you should take time off in order for those injuries to heal properly.

Finding this balance is tricky and often difficult, so it's best to surround yourself with a good team of physical trainers, doctors, and coaches who want what's best for you. Finally, it is important to not get caught up in what your peers and competitors are doing. It's OK to train differently in order to reach your goals. If that means incorporating more cross training into your training regime and less running, do it. Anything is better than taking months off of zero endurance training.


Hey Drew

Thank you so much for taking the time out to read this. I just have no clue what to do. So I have a really bad calf. It's always hurting or sore and when I run it hurts like crazy. I haven't told anyone because I really don't want to be out and miss my season. I've just been taking Advil or Motrin to help with the pain. I don't know if I should say something or hold off until the end of cross.

- Concerned in New York

Hey Concerned:

Great question. If your injury is regressing, then you need to take time off and consult a doctor. It is not in your best interest for the longevity of your running career to turn something into a chronic injury. I have personally dealt with a similar situation this year. I had the best running year of my life and made my first World Championship team. I was motivated and hungry as ever, but ran into some issues with my foot toward the end of the season and had to call it a year early. At the time, it was the hardest decision to make--calling a season due to an injury. But with proper treatment and recovery, you can navigate this injury well and come out the other end stronger and hungry to make the next season better. Let's both get our bodies healthy and be ready to go when it matters!

Being held back: 

How do I deal with a coach that is holding me back because of my team's ability? I have one teammate that runs seriously, so it is difficult to do workouts -- 5-plus minutes rest, bad workouts, etc).

- Frustrated Runner

Hey Frustrated:

Great and difficult question. I think the first route would be to explain how you feel to your coach. Tell him that you want harder workouts that are appropriate for your ability level. Explain to him that you want to succeed, and by doing so, you will elevate the team as a whole. You need to approach your coach in a way that isn't disrespectful and demeaning and instead informative and plan driven.

Instead of telling your coach the workouts aren't hard enough or the rest is too much, figure out a solution that helps you and your team. For example: If you guys are doing 3x mile as the workout for the day, run the first three reps with your team and teammates and then ask your coach if you can do one more repeat once the team is done.

This way you get in the appropriate workout for you fitness level but won't compromise the team atmosphere. Hope this helps! All the best.

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