This might surprise some people, but for each good run that I have, when it seems effortless and easy and even fun, I have a crummy one. One when my legs feel heavy and I'm counting down the seconds and I really believe that time has slowed down just to spite me.
Today was the latter. For the past two weeks I've been battling a cold and haven't felt motivated to work out. Today I got on the treadmill thinking I'd run a nice, easy five miles but it was hard. My chest hurt and my legs felt heavy. What was normally an easy pace for me felt like a sprint. Worst of all, when I finally finished, I felt overheated and a little off. Not at all what I was hoping for. It did however, provide some nice inspiration for the blog below... my totally unofficial advice on what to do when it hurts during a run.
When You're in the Middle of a Run and You Want to Stop
Before you give up completely, try slowing down or even walking. You might feel uncomfortable for a minute or two, but that's OK. A lot of running is becoming OK with feeling a little bit uncomfortable. Most times if I walk for five minutes or slow down a little bit, I feel OK speeding up again.
When You Get a Cramp
Keep running and change your breathing. Breathe through your nose and out of your mouth or try inhaling twice for every exhale. You might feel like you're doing a goofy version of Lamaze, but it does work. You should be able to go back to breathing normally after a little while.
When You Feel Dizzy
Stop. Absolutely, positively stop. Get to shade, get some fluids and take it easy. Get a ride home if you need one.
When Your Calf/Ankle/Shin/Quad Hurts
First see if you can run through it. If you need to slow down, go ahead. If the pain doesn't stop or gets worse, proceed with caution. A pain could make you change your stride, which could set you up for a serious injury. When you get home try stretching, icing, or anti-inflammatories to see what helps. If you have to, take a couple of days off. If that doesn't help, see a doctor.
When Your Stomach Hurts
For a lot of runners, this is totally normal. All of the blood that would be used for digestion in your stomach is being pumped out into your arms and legs. Over time you'll probably learn when your body feels best to run. Maybe that's an hour after a heavy meal, or maybe that's first thing in the morning before you've even had your coffee. In the meantime, try to run through it. If you have to slow down, that's fine. Any run is better than no run at all, even if you can't cover the distance or hit the time that you were hoping for.
When You Finish a Run and Feel Light Headed
Don't sit down or lie down, even though that is probably all you want to do. Walk around slowly and catch your breath. Let your body cool down. Stretch. Bend at your waist and rest your hands on your thighs. Once your heart rate goes down and you start feeling a little better, sip some water.