A Randomized Study of a Strength Training Program to Prevent Injuries in Runners of the New York City Marathon

Sports Health. 2020 Jan/Feb;12(1):74-79. doi: 10.1177/1941738119877180. Epub 2019 Oct 23.


Background: Lower extremity overuse injuries are common among runners, especially first-time marathoners. Hip abductor and quadriceps strengthening is often recommended to reduce running-related injuries.

Hypothesis: A 12-week strength training program would decrease the rate of overuse injuries resulting in marathon noncompletion and improve race finishing time.

Study design: Randomized trial.

Level of evidence: Level 2.

Methods: Twelve weeks before the New York City Marathon, first-time marathon runners age 18 years and older were randomized into a strength training group or an observation group. The strength training group was instructed to perform a 10-minute program 3 times weekly using written and video instruction. This program targeted the quadriceps, hip abductor, and core muscle groups. Injuries were self-reported through biweekly surveys, with major injuries being those that resulted in marathon noncompletion and minor injuries being those that impaired training or race performance.

Results: A total of 720 runners were enrolled (mean age, 35.9 ± 9.4 years; 69.4% female), of whom 583 runners started the marathon and 579 completed it. The incidence of major injury was 8.9% and minor injury was 48.5%. Fifty two of 64 major injuries were overuse, of which 20 were bone stress injuries. The incidence of overuse injury resulting in marathon noncompletion was 7.1% in the strength training group and 7.3% in the observation group (risk ratio, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.57-1.63; P = 0.90). The mean finishing time was 5 hours 1 ± 60 minutes in the strength training group and 4 hours 58 ± 55 minutes in the observation group (P = 0.35).

Conclusion: There is a high prevalence of injury among first-time marathon runners, but this self-directed strength training program did not decrease overuse injury incidence resulting in marathon noncompletion.

Clinical relevance: Prevention strategies such as strength training need to be developed and evaluated through clinical trials to reduce the high prevalence of overuse injuries in runners, especially for high-risk populations such as first-time marathon runners.

Keywords: bone stress injuries; marathon; overuse injuries; prevention; running.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / physiopathology
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / injuries*
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Resistance Training*
  • Risk Factors
  • Running / injuries*
  • Running / physiology