When Should You Stop Running?

Injury, fatigue or illness are all warning signs that your body needs rest


stop running

I have just come back from a 17-mile ‘long run’ with a club mate of mine, averaging 7 minute miles, gaining 800 feet of elevation on some of south London’s finest hills. Yesterday, I ran a solitary mile of my local parkrun before keeling over and pulling out of the race.

These two runs are inextricably linked to one another. The long run felt good, legs ticking over nicely, waking up with the body working in sync, as it should be. This was only made possible by the fact that I listened to my burning quads in the race the day before – and abandoned the race.

A couple of easy miles after and a thorough stretching and foam roller session later and the legs were already feeling better. Throw in an evening off running and a night’s rest and the recovery was complete. I was back in the game. No injury. Onwards and upwards (certainly, in the case of the hills on the morning run!). So here are three top tips to make the most of your running…

Listening to your body

The most important thing is paying very close attention to your body and listening to all those little niggles and aches. Knowing when you can run through something – and when pushing hard might cause further damage – is crucial.

In the case of the parkrun yesterday, I felt like I had a rock sitting in the centre of my right quad. I knew it was hurting as soon as I started running. That said, sometimes these things go away and it’s partly in the mind, hence why I still gave it a shot. The pain was still there and growing after a mile though, so, even though I could have definitely finished the race, the damage done would not have been worth it. I might not have had the glorious run out the following morning if I had.

Keep your ‘A’ races in mind

If the race had been more important, say a county championships or one that I had signed up to long in advance or with friends, I would have definitely stuck it out and finished. I would have sucked up the extended recovery period required from the damage done in order to make sure I had given it 100% on race day.

It’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind – which events are your ‘A’ races and which are just training runs? If it’s just a parkrun or a local event you signed up for last minute, it’s not worth aggravating any little niggle. Some might say that you should always stop if you feel pain, no matter what the situation. In reality, that often doesn’t happen. Know your races: if it’s a big one and the pain isn’t too sharp the reality is that you’ll want to max out and push it to the end.


Some runs I finish and do little more than a couple of minutes stretching. Others I take a long time feeling for any little pains and trying to address them. It depends on how good the legs feel while running. Yesterday I spent a good 15 minutes stretching and working on the quads. I swear by my foam roller. Invest in a good one, sturdy and with different grooves. Your legs will thank you for it. When you get back from a painful run, be sure to spend longer warming down and rolling out the aches and pains. If you don’t, the recovery will take much longer.

So, with these three ideas in mind, I am happy the next week of training is going to go swimmingly. Better still, I have an ‘A’ race on Saturday so being in tip-top shape is going to be paramount. The more I think about it, stopping in that parkrun seems like an even better idea!

David Castle

Written by David Castle | 306 articles | View profile

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