Q: It's been a year since my first race - a marathon (although my second race was a 10k - 44 min finish). I am looking for a place to get advice about a particularly nagging leg cramp problem (quads, then calves, then hams) at mile 20-21. I only get them after that distance. I have run only three marathons - this happened each time in the same place. I've improved my time each race but this problem persists each time. This happens even though I have trained harder each time, run the requisite number of long runs during training, hydrate properly (before and during the race), and tried supplementing potassium. I have a training partner that I always seem to be in better shape than, however at mile 20-21, I have to stop or else fall over - no cramps for him even though our training is the same (my diet is better, he binge drinks and smokes). After some stretching and massaging, I can usually run again gingerly for another mile where I have to repeat the stretching etc. I train and shoot for an 8 min/mile pace so I'm not an elite athlete but these cramps have me considering giving up marathons - major bummer. Please help or point me in the right direction. Thanks! - D.R.,10/14/02

A: I can't give you any physiological advice on what happens after 20 miles of running. I know it ain't pretty. Some can get through it. Others can't. I'm one who can't and thankfully, I have got marathoning out of my system. With all due respect to marathon runners, they can be alot like mountain climbers: Big time obsessives. Resist the temptation of binge drinking or smoking just to reach your goal. I have run 6 marathons and never have achieved my potential (according to my predicted shorter distance times). I am convinced I am not a marathoner...but this was not until I had a Truth Intervention (see article from the Rage archives). The reason people run marathons is that anyone can...just like anyone can write a book, depending how much time you have to kill. Running a marathon sounds really impressive to the lay person, who can't really tell you how far it is, just like they don't have a clue what a 10k is. I would venture to guess if a study was done, I'd bet that when the word "running" comes up, the word "marathon" is the first one to follow. Just think about the first question you get when the subject of your running comes up at a party from some non-runner. It's usually "...run any marathons lately? When's your next one?" When you say you're focusing on 10ks, halves or...heaven forbid, a sub 5:00 mile, they look at you as some kind of failure and change the subject as if their cocktail glass suddenly needs a re-fill. If these people don't know the difference between a 3 and 5 hour marathon and what it takes to get there, how are they going to appreciate the difference between a 5:10 and 4:59 mile? Sorry. Wish I could offer some help. I would suggest shorter distances. - The Rage

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10kTruth.com is a place for runners who have the attitude to train harder and smarter, who want to race faster and stronger, to better their race times and lower the chance of injury. The Rage and Manciata answer running and training questions with their own unique insight and spew. You'll also find running advice and inspirational quotes by sports legends and others who epitomize the spirit of 10k Truth.