Getting ready for the Great North Run

The Great North Run is just around the corner and seasoned runners will be well into their training schedules. However any novices who have left things to the last minute need to monitor how their bodies are reacting to the extra work. Here Spire Washington Hospital’s Sports Injury Physiotherapist Andy Appleyard shares some valuable tips.


Most people usually don’t run far very often so pushing yourself much further than your body is used to can result in injuries. The best thing is to make sure you’ve got a good training regime and you prepare early enough.

A lot of people do the Great North Run as a one-off. They are not regular runners and have a lot of training errors. Research suggests the amount of running correlates to the type of injuries, and people who try to bump up their distances too quickly can end up with problems. Therefore, take it slowly and use a training plan to drive up your distance safely.

The most common problems we see in the Sports Injury Clinic are ankle, Achilles, knee-related and tendon issues and many are totally preventable.

Don’t ignore the niggles

If something has just started, such as a niggling pain, and you want to get ready for the Great North Run, we can assess what the problem is and chat through your training regime. We see a lot of people with significant injuries that need to be treated before the Great North Run, and afterwards people who are experiencing problems as a result of doing it.

If you are training and you get a niggle, you might assume if you rest it’ll get better. This isn’t always the case - a lot of people end up limiting themselves more and more because the problem comes on again as soon as their training gets back to where it was when the issue first appeared. A variety of issues need more management than that - with Achilles problems, for example, the tendon needs to be conditioned and strengthened to cope with the load.

Ultimately we always advise people to monitor any aches and pains and to seek advice if they’ve got a big event coming up. Often we can provide the guidance needed on how to strengthen certain areas so you can perform both safely and at your best.


Keen amateur footballer Marco Oswald, 24, from County Durham, had anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction surgery at Spire Washington Hospital after an injury, and Andy is now overseeing his recovery.

Marco said: “I was in the middle of a game when my studs stuck in the ground and my knee popped out. I had my operation in February – quite a complex one that took two and a half hours. I’m still recovering now and won’t be able to play again until Christmas.

“Part of the hamstring was taken away to create a new ligament and I now have to build up the muscles around the knee because they deteriorate when they’re not used. This means I go to the gym five times a week and I’m back running – everything except kicking a ball at the moment.

“The team at Spire Washington Hospital has been excellent – Andy keeps ringing to see how I am. The care is extremely high quality and I’d recommend going there to anyone.”

Andy put together the protocols for Marco’s rehabilitation at Spire Washington. He said: “With reconstructions, the graft the surgeon puts in is weaker to start with because it’s not getting the blood supply. Patients feel great at six weeks but the graft is actually quite vulnerable so we have to strengthen the leg but not train around that area.

“The graft knits together with the bone at eight to 12 weeks, then it’s appropriate to put on some strain and we use different exercises to promote the healing. Using weights means the injury will heal much better. Later we look at sports specific conditioning and all in all the complete rehabilitation takes around nine months. Thankfully Marco is fit and well and healing really nicely.

“If you’re planning on running an event, no matter how far, the advice is to listen carefully to your body and to seek medical advice if you have recurring aches and pains that are hampering your mobility. There’s lots we can do to help.”

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