It seems pretty obvious from the start that the feet are going to take a battering of serious proportions and most people can relate to the odd blister, but few people can imagine what 3100 miles in the rain and heat moving nearly 18 hours a day will do.
This is why training is so useful. Running every day and a longer run on weekends is going to get the feet used to moving for long periods. It will break in the shoes so you will know how comfortable they are or if they’re not then you can fix the problem or find a pair of shoes that do work. It is definitely not a good idea to start a race with a make of shoe that you have not tested before. I train in New Balance 854’s which are available in the UK but not in the US and I use a size US 12 4e/2e and in the races use a 13 4e. Anything smaller gives me problems and I have to cut the shoes. However because my feet are used to this shoe I am able to pull on a new pair at any time without having to break them in.
Blisters are the most common problem. A runner needs to find their own way of dealing with them as there are several opinions and methods.As soon as a blister comes into my awareness I stop and puncture it, clean it and change shoes or socks. Maintaining awareness of the condition of the body at all times is necessary, even down to the smallest of details. This isnt always easy and is why ‘pushing’ will deafen one to the body’s condition. One can’t afford to let a situation escalate out of control so I like to eradicate the source of the problem as soon as I begin to feel any heat or ‘hotspots’, as we call them, as this is the precursor to blistering. Changing shoes and socks will help immediately as will cooling the feet in ice or cold water or even just cleaning the feet will help. Any time spent on foot care is worth it. Prevention is better than cure. I have seen several people with blisters covering almost the entire sole of the foot – huge things 2” or more in diameter and the runner unable to walk now risks infection. Multiday running takes the body to the edge of its capacity and its not an edge to go over.
Other common foot injuries are collapsed arches which can be supported with orthotics. However training will strengthen these muscles and running with orthotics is something a lot of people do these days. Again introducing orthotics during the race can cause other problems such as blistering…
The metatarsals also take a hammering as does the Achilles and injuries to these can stress other muscles in the chain. In a multiday race the weakest link becomes more than just a TV show.
Earlier in my multiday career I had severe pain in the soles of my feet. Each step was intense (and thats where I learned that technique of walking on rice paper without breaking it that was featured in a Kung Fu program in the 70’s). The nerve endings became inflamed and for days I struggled before it finally eased off. And there’s another topic – How pain mysteriously comes and magically goes.
So there’s my tuppence worth on why its good to train regularly, regardless really, of the distance.