Close to the beginning of my training, I had coffee with a friend who has run several marathons. She suggested that I see a PT before I had any issues - not AFTER like most people. The rationale behind this was so that we could identify any issues before they become magnified when running a really long race.
So it took me a few months because of our summer vacations and just having no time, but I finally made an appointment in August at Onward Physical Therapy.
I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. Their facility looked like a mini CrossFit gym. So that felt like a comfortable space to me. There's a few offices with chiropractic style tables and other PT related devices. Dr. Cody was who I met. Right away he started asking about my goals for the marathon. I told him that initially I just wanted to break 4 hours, but now I think that qualifying for the Boston Marathon was in my sights (which meant running the marathon under 3 hours 10 minutes!!).
Cody filmed me running on the tread mill to start with. We found out that my stride was a little to long. Too long of a stride for that many miles can lead to knee and hip pain. Ideally, your upper body should remain over your feet while running. This helps to alleviate and unnecessary force into your joints.
Once learning this, I finally realized why all those hard-core runners I see around town look so funny when they run. You know what I'm talking about - the ones with limp hands, a short stride, but it looks like they're on mile 26 already. They actually have good running form. Shame on me for judging!
So in conjunction with this, Cody introduced me to running cadence. I wasn't exactly sure how the two go together. Then Cody took out a metronome app and set it 170 BPM. He told me to run to that beat - ever beat is a foot step. This immediately clicked!
My next few weeks after our session, I was running while listening to the metronome app on my phone. WHAT A DIFFERENCE. My runs felt SO much better after doing this. I feel like I'm now able to conserve more energy but still run at a good pace.
Dr. Cody told me that my posterior chain would feel sore after switching my stride like this. He was totally right. For the following 2-3 weeks, my calves and hamstrings were sore. He also gave me some calf exercises to help strengthen my legs.
So, needless to say, my biggest piece of advice for anyone getting into running is to go see a PT before any issues arise. You'll learn a lot about yourself and become equipped with the tools to help yourself during training.