An Ultra-Runner's Secret for Injury-Free Running

A simple strategy for avoiding injury

It seems many runners tend to passively accept the fact that they are “injury prone.” As a result, they spend an excessive amount of time trying to heal recurring ailments or even worse, run through pain, ignoring the fact that something is seriously wrong and adding to the damage with every step they take.

The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation estimates that about 70 percent of the running population becomes injured at some point or another.

If this is true, then it might really make you wonder how it’s possible that one ultra-runner, who’s completed five 100-mile races over the course of just seven months, hasn’t dealt with one common running injury since.

Houston Laws’ completed the 110-mile Klondike Road Relay in Alaska this past weekend. While he admitted that completing the distance was no easy feat, when I caught up with him after the race he said other than a nerve bundle that developed between his toes due to a lack of cushioning from his shoes and socks in a previous ultra race, he hasn’t experienced any common running injuries (like IT band syndrome, knee pain or plantar fasciitis) since the start of his ultra-running career.

“I think I had shin splints for a very short time in high school,” Laws said. “I also had knee surgery in high school but no other real symptoms have risen since then.”

A bit of background: Laws was a wrestler in high school and didn’t start running until afterwards.

“As a wrestler, I wasn't really interested in running, I was more interested in losing weight and being able to eat," he told me.

So even after knee surgery and with the countless amounts of miles he racks up every month, what’s his secret to staying injury free?


Laws says that during his four days off from work (he’s a mental health technician at a hospital in Juneau) he’ll run nearly 50 miles a day when he’s training for an ultra-race. But the other three days of the week when he’s on shift at the hospital: that time is all about recovery.   

“During that time I'm on my feet a lot, but for three days a week I don't do any running,” Laws said. “I take the elevator and I take any means to make it easier on myself.”

Laws also mentioned that he doesn’t do any cross training, a strategy that goes against the popular recommendations of many running experts.

“I just feel like it's a lot more accessory muscles that I end up with aches and pains in that I shouldn't feel the next day when I want to go for a run,” he said.

Lesson learned: don’t underestimate the importance of recovery and just because most experts recommend a certain training strategy or technique, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best option for you.

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