How I stopped Iliotibial Band pain on race day

August 17, 2013 — 3 Comments

East of home and visible from my office window, Logan Peak looms proudly in the background. Even more looming (in my mind at least) has been the Logan Peak Trail Run, a 28 mile, 7261 foot elevation, ultra-marathon. By ‘ultra’ standards this is about as short as they get, but still, for a non-runner, I have considered this endeavor untouchable since learning about it a few years ago. In late May of this year a friend texted me around midnight to let me know that he had signed up for the race and that a single spot remained. Until this point in my life paying someone to time me running sounded a lot like paying for a series of well-executed punches to the face (with aid stations of course). But it was late, and just like an infomercial, the deal seemed too good to be true and I committed. Eight weeks to train and very minimal running endurance in reserve. No problem, I’ll hop online, research “8 week marathon training plans”, then start running. It didn’t take long to realize that even Google didn’t want me to run. Not only was there a drought of eight-week plans available online, but there was even more criticism to be found for shortcutting rookies wanting to ramp up too quickly. Next step, print out a 16 week plan and delete every-other week. Brilliant. Everything was going great until a 17 mile trail run a few weeks deep in the plan. On the seventh mile of a technical downhill section I had the unmistakable feeling of being shot in the knee cap. I couldn’t recall any gunfire, which seemed odd, so I proceeded to run-it-off. This lasted for exactly three more steps. Those who have experienced Iliotibial Band Syndrome before, know what followed; hours of research online, conflicting information, people trying to sell e-books on the subject, foam rolling, chi-running technique, new shoes, stretching, rest, ice, etc. I won’t waste your time by rehashing any of this. It is all out there in abundant quantities of confusion. Three weeks until race day, I tried, but failed, to stay on schedule. One week before the race I made a last attempt at a six mile trail run to gauge my healing progress; defeat. Long term, I knew that to beat IT Band Syndrome I would need to strengthen my hips and glutes to balance out my quads. Short term, I needed a bandaid solution, and quick (Wonder if any kids at the skatepark sell performance enhancing drugs?). I had read mixed reviews on IT Band straps, but decided to take a chance on this one anyway: Protec IT Band Wrap. I am not going to go into how/why it works here, other than to say that the idea behind it makes sense. The instructions in the packaging were terrible, and online not much info was available either. I’ll help out with that below.

Jason and Kirk at the Logan Peak Trail Run finish line.

Jason and Kirk at the Logan Peak Trail Run finish line.

Race day arrived and I fully expected that somewhere between mile 6 and 17 I would be stranded in the woods. Miraculously 28 miles passed under my pain-free Iliotibial. Anecdotal evidence? Definitely. Do I care? No. Add to this two more months of healthy post-race running and I am a believer.





How to wear an IT Band strap:


3 responses to How I stopped Iliotibial Band pain on race day

  1. Hi Kirk,
    I’m training for my first marathon and am in the same boat you were in training for your Ultra. Everything was going fine until the last three weeks of my taper when out of nowhere my right knee felt like someone was stabbing it from the side during one of my easy runs. Went to see the doctor and was told that I have ITBS and that with some rest/intense foam rolling I might be able to still run my marathon on 10-6.
    Still felt pain in my knee when I ran an easy 5 miles after the visit and was told by one of my friends to try out the Protec IT Band Strap.

    So far it seems to have helped with reducing the pain on short runs and I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to run the marathon. Were there any other things that you did to help prepare you for your race that helped you to get through it pain free?


    • Bronson, it seemed sort of hokey, but I studied a lot of Chi Running videos on Youtube and completely changed the way I run/stride. It barely feels like my feet are impacting the ground now. At first it felt silly, like an old person shuffle, but the impact on my legs and feet went way down. If I were you I’d still go for it. Strap the band on tight and run slower than you normally would. Don’t extend your legs out in front of your body like a sprinter, else your heels hit the ground first and the impact travels up your leg to the knee. Impact on your fore or midfoot–think about this proactively on every step. Try to run in a way that your body is not bouncing up and down. You can check this by observing if your vision is bouncing while looking at the horizon. I am guessing you ramped up mileage too fast training. Next time build up slowly and do a lot of hip and glute exercises. Let us know how you do! Good luck.

      • Thanks for the advice! I haven’t heard about Chi Running before but will definitely look into it as I know I need to improve my form anyways. My game plan is to wear the IT Band wrap and run a slower pace than I was planning on and hope that my IT Band doesn’t flair up during the marathon. I know in the long term I need to work on the muscles supporting that area…I was just looking for a quick fix considering my race is coming up soon and also because this is the last race of the season for me. Thanks again for your advice and happy running!

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