Running Injury and Recovery: Aching Quadriceps

Runners' QuadricepsThis question about running injury and recovery came via email last week from ultra marathoner George Nelson of Newport News, Virginia:

This past August I ran solo across my home state of Wisconsin with the help/support of some of my high school classmates (1973).  I covered 218 miles in exactly 7 days as I had planned.  Started at noon on 8 August and finished at noon on 15 August. During the run, everything went almost perfectly, except for very hot & humid weather (low 90s almost the whole week).

However, since getting home (Virginia) I have had a much slower recovery than expected. It has taken months for my lower quads to stop aching when I run.

I’ve never had that problem before (I did 146 miles at the Across the Years 72-hour run).  They are still not 100%.  I am wondering if I tore them down a lot more than I realized during the run. I did take 800mg of ibuprofen at night and in the morning.  I have heard that can cause rhabdomyolysis, which breaks down skeletal tissue/muscle.

What do you think happened?  And more important: what should I do to improve my recovery?  I have started quad exercises in a nearby gym.  I hope to get back to some long ultras (24- or 48-hour runs) next spring.

Thanks in advance for your advice.


That’s over 50 kilometers a day! Good job running across the state of Wisconsin.

Now, your question about the soreness in your quads not going away: First of all, I don’t believe it would be caused by the ibuprofen, but the heat may have had something to do with the soreness, especially if you were deficient in salt, which may have caused you to not utilize the water intake, or if you were dehydrated.

Years ago when I first started running in the heat of Badwater, I experienced the same soreness in my quads and inability to recover. I attributed it to the heat and the size of the quad. Cooling is limited simply because of the muscle mass.

A couple of my blog posts from the past about hydration and heat training that may be helpful in the future:

But now, while you’re recovering, I agree with what you suggested, going to the gym and lifting light to moderate weights and simply running and being patient. It may take a half year or more for you to recover back to where you were. It took me a full year to recover from my run across the U.S., finally getting to where I was feeling halfway human—and it took another half year to feel back to my normal running self.

Be kind to your body and be patient. Eat more proteins to help build muscle, and be sure to balance exercise of the other muscles. You will get back, so don’t freak out.


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