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Last spring I ran a half marathon. I trained rather well for it and hit distance close to and equal to 13 miles in my training. I managed these training runs without incident. However, during the race I experienced incredible muscle spasms in my calves from around mile 9 to the end of the race. It was as though my calves were experiencing electric shock. Why did this not happen during my training and what can I do to prevent for the same race this coming Spring?

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    How much different was the race from your training runs? For example: surface (road/treadmill/trail), shoes, weather, pace, food/drink. – LShaver Feb 5 at 18:37
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    I can only think of two differences: 1) the race was much hillier; 2) it was race conditions so I was going some faster than in my training. – Matt Cremeens Feb 5 at 19:37
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    1. Ding ding ding. Hill running is murder on the calves. And 2. contributed a lot as well. – JohnP Feb 5 at 19:45
  • So is the answer to train more on hills? I've been doing that and have a plan to stay hydrated better and add some nutrition. I really want to avoid that experience again if I can help it. – Matt Cremeens Feb 5 at 19:47
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    @MattCremeens - Essentially, yes. – JohnP Feb 5 at 19:52
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First, there are two things that you note in your comments that are the most likely culprits. The race being hillier than your training area is the first indicator, as hill running is an entirely different beast than flat. It's much harder on the legs, and the calves especially, as they are the springs and shock absorbers for your legs.

You're also doing this at a faster pace than your training (more on the training in a bit), which will also contribute to muscle failure, because you're working your muscles harder and faster than they are used to.

just a side note, is you say

...hit distance close to and equal to 13 miles in my training.

You really should have some overdistance, some slow easy miles longer than a 1/2 marathon a few times in your training. Not often, but every once in a while.

As to what will help it, it's basically just more hills. Find ways to incorporate hills into your runs, and if you can manage it, a few times a month go out and do 1/4 - 1/2 mile repeats up a hill. Run it hard, and use the down and a minute or two at the bottom of the hill as rest. If you don't run hills in training, they will hurt you badly in races.

  • Thank you. I'm still a bit of a novice so appreciate some seasoned advice. You may be saving me from an injury. – Matt Cremeens Feb 5 at 19:54
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    @MattCremeens - There are quite a few good running questions here on the site, if you are a novice I suspect a couple of things (common to newer runners). You are running your easy days too hard, your hard days too easy, and not running enough. Those 3 things fix 95% of the problems for recreational runners. – JohnP Feb 5 at 19:55

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