Oh Shit, I’m Running A Marathon: I Kneed Help

Week 13 of first-time marathoner Joe's training, and his agonised knees are turning mutinous

My pained knees, yesterday

I’m three-and-a-bit weeks away from running my first-ever marathon, the inaugral Bristol + Bath Marathon on 25 October, and this week’s long training-run was the longest long-run I’ve ever long-ran. It was roughly 18 miles in all, and by the end my knees were huuurting. Really badly.

This is concerning to me, because if my knees can give me industrial-strength gyp after 18 miles of running, what the hell are they going to be like with an additional 8.2 miles on top? Not good, I’m guessing. Very f—ing painful, most likely.


I Googled around for an hour or so to get some advice on knee pain – avoiding it happening, dealing with it if it does – but as with so many things running-related, there are more contradictory pieces of advice out there than there are hair follicles on a human head.

So after tearfully throwing my laptop out the window and yelling angrily up at the night sky, I instead opted to get in touch with Unbound’s resident ultra-runner Kieran Alger – a man who knows how to run a long, looong way without having your body fall to bits underneath you like a clown car.

Kieran Alger, about to run 236 miles in one go (probably)

Hi Kieran. So, I’ve been reading that knee pain might be caused by weak hips, which start to lose control of your legs as they become exhausted, causing you to land awkwardly. Does that sound about right to you?

“Well, in my experience there are a lot of potential causes of knee pain, but most lower-body niggles do start somewhere higher up the chain. Imbalances further up the body – such as a weak core, glutes, or lack of mobility in the hips – can cause kinks in your running form that will lead to problems in the knees.”

Any tips for reducing knee pain, or ideally avoiding it altogether?

“The thing I found best was to foam roll your ITB injuries religiously. I also do a lot of strength and flexibility work to help higher up the chain.”

Considering pre-emptively taking painkillers before my full marathon might. Is that a shit idea, though?

I’m not a massive fan of painkillers – they mask rather than fix the problem

“I’m not a massive fan of painkillers – they mask rather than fix the problem. I prefer to to find out what’s causing the problem and deal with it. If you’re about to run 26.2 miles you want to try and make sure you’re not hiding something that’ll come back to bite you.”

Okay, thanks Kieran!

Here are some tanned professional-model knees on a sunkissed beach, to make up for having to gaze upon my pasty, hairy knees up the top there

So there we have it. I’ve started working a couple of extra bits into my bi-daily strength training circuit in order to build up my hip strength (it’s a bit late in the day now, obviously, but better late than never): side planks, 30 seconds on each side, and single-leg bridges, five per leg, held for five seconds apiece.

Stupid hips. Idiot knees. Sodding bastard marathon. Jesus Howard Christ.

High point of the week: Got a multipack of seven SiS energy gels at the knockdown bargain-basement price of just £6.49 in the Arndale Centre branch of Sweatshop. They cost about £2.20 a pop normally. Imagine my delight.


Low point of the week: My treacherous knees attempting a full-on mutiny wasn’t much fun. Pair of twats.

Training tune of the week: Fracture – Get Busy


Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.