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My podiatrist got me to the start line - the rest is up to me!

My podiatrist got me to the start line - the rest is up to me!


With the 2019 London Marathon taking place on Sunday 28 April, we hear a story from a keen runner who needed support from his podiatrist to complete his race preparations.

Paul is a fit and active 58 year old. Working in the city during the week, he is a keen ‘weekend warrior’ with a love of running, cycling and racket sports. He secured a place in the 2018 London marathon but, due to injury, had to defer his place to this year. His training had been going well and he was clocking up the miles required to build the strength and stamina needed for the gruelling 26.2 mile distance. With two months to go, he felt a twinge in his right Achilles tendon during a long Sunday run. Initially he thought it was just muscle fatigue and assumed he would recover quickly, but after two weeks with no sign of improvement – and just two months to go until the big race – he decided to seek medical help.

He visited Alex Townsend, an MSK specialist podiatrist and currently a student for the Post Graduate Certificate of Podiatric Sports Medicine. ‘Paul came to my clinic extremely distressed about potentially not being able to participate in the race,’ recalls Alex.

‘When I inspected his right Achilles tendon it was thicker in the upper mid-section. We ran tests which showed that it had not ruptured, but the fibres of the tendon were sensitive. To perform a single heel raise was extremely painful. Using diagnostic ultrasound, we confirmed that this was a case of Achilles tendinopathy – a relatively common soft-tissue injury.’

With only a couple of months to go before the race, treatment needed to begin quickly. Because of limited recovery time, Paul did not want to consider anything surgical, so he and Alex opted instead for a conservative rehabilitation programme, aiming to load the affected tendon and strengthen the associated calf muscles. Paul undertook calf-muscle training 3-5 times a day until the day of the race.

‘We also took other conservative measures, including the use of heel raises in both shoes to mitigate the load to the Achilles while walking. This made a big difference and fortunately Paul was soon able to return to running, though he needed to manage his increase in distance carefully.’

Two weeks after his initial assessment, Paul was on the start line of the Dorney Lake half marathon, an event he had prioritised as a preparation race prior to the London marathon. He was able to complete this distance pain free for the first time in weeks and is now feeling confident about completing the full marathon distance.

Paul said: ‘Without the help of Alex, I don’t think I would have been ready for the marathon this year. I was facing heartbreak after having to defer my place the previous year due to injury. I was extremely worried about not being able to take part and felt I was going to let down a charity very close to my heart. Alex was able to accurately assess, diagnose, treat and rehabilitate my injured tendon and I was able to get to the start line of several of my preparation races, including a personal best in a half marathon! I feel the role of podiatrists in these injuries is massively misunderstood by the public and I wish I had visited a podiatrist sooner!’

Good luck to Paul for the race on Sunday from us all at the College of Podiatry.

A special thanks must be made to Paul, who was happy to forego his right to anonymity with the hope that this article helps others in similar situations. He is running the London Marathon with his youngest son, James, for the charity StyleAcre, which provides care and support to people with learning disabilities. The fundraising page can be found here 


Paul and his youngest son James after completing 20 miles at Dorney Lake marathon prep race in March.
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