Is sports massage a luxury or a necessity for marathon runners?

For most of us, running a marathon is a massive challenge and commitment. So the last thing you want is an injury that could force you to pull out before the big day.

Effective stretching – and if required Physiotherapy – can help you through to the finish line. But many runners are unaware of the physical and psychological benefits of sports massage when preparing for a marathon – and maybe consider it a luxury.

Some recent research mentioned in The Times newspaper on 7th October explains why massage is so effective. (Click the link to read the article in full – you may need to temporarily subscribe). Journalist Rhys Blakely states “Athletes have long believed that a good masseur can work wonders: reducing inflammation, improving blood flow and easing tightness after vigorous exercise.” Including a sports massage as a necessary part of your training programme has many proven benefits, backed-up by new research that shows how a “massage can flush inflammatory cells from injured muscle tissue.”

Physical benefits of a sports massage

  • Improves tissue permeability: this allows nutrients and oxygen to reach the cells quickly.
  • Scar tissue breakdown: any injury heals with scar tissue, but if left alone the collagen fibres are laid down haphazardly. Massage helps to  positively influence the healing of any new injury.
  • Pain relief: the presence of tension within a muscle can be painful. Massage also releases the body’s natural endorphins producing pain relief.
  • Relaxation: by warming the muscles and soothing the nerve endings, massage can be a lovely relaxing experience.

Psychological benefits

  • Reduces anxiety: soothing nature of massage and the release of chemicals and hormones that induce relaxation can relieve levels of stress.
  • Invigoration: brisk massage strokes performed just prior to an event can invigorate your body and make you feel energised for the work ahead!

What our sports massage experts recommend

Rachel and Jonny are two exceptional sports massage therapists on our team – they both treat marathon runners on a regular basis and all of our team have experience working as therapists for marathon events.
physiotherapy clinic in BarnesSports massage during your training

During your marathon training they would recommend starting with a sports massage about once a month during the initial phase of training, building up to fortnightly as their mileage builds in the last two months.

Your therapist will be able to identify where you are tight and can advise you how to stretch safely.  As well as keeping your body in good shape, massage can help in the mental preparation for the big day. It will make you more aware of any niggles and tightness that may be starting to accumulate as your distance is increased and identify potential sites of injury.

Sports massage in the final week

It’s very helpful to get a massage during the final week before the marathon. This is the time to keep stretching, get as much rest as possible and eat well. But it can be a frustrating time as some people are itching to run!

And post marathon

Don’t forget to book your post marathon massage for the week after the race. Massage helps the microscopic damage to your muscles repair. It will ease that post event soreness. Your body will need all the help it can get to recover fully.

What one of our clients in training for a marathon, has said about her sports massage experience

“I have been a marathon runner on and off for the last 10 years but not run a full marathon for the last 4 years. I signed up for the London marathon and thought I had better have a physical MOT first. I have used a lot of physios, chiropractors, osteopaths and massage therapists in my time and am always cautious as quality varies greatly. Diana put me in touch with their massage team. What can I say, it is heaven and hell at the same time but it’s worth it.

I don’t think I have ever had better massage treatment ever. They get straight to problem. It has greatly improved my approach to running. I look forward to it rather than worrying about what injuries I am going to get.

What I also like about the therapists are that they understand human nature, they know you will do 90% of what they suggest but support you anyway. Absolutely brilliant, what else can I say?” Eilish Adams, client Physio on the River.

Experience the benefits for yourself
to understand why a Sports Massage
could be a necessity not a luxury.


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Founded by athletes Chris Brasher and John Disley in 1981, the London Marathon is an annual marathon held in London. Typically held in April, it has now moved to October. The largely flat course is set around the River Thames, starting in Blackheath and finishing at The Mall and is considered to be one of the most famous and prestigious events of its kind in the world. This year over 40,000 people participated in the first event for two years, while 37,966 people competed in the ‘virtual’ event. The next London Marathon is due to be held on the 2nd October 2022 over a course of 26.2 miles and you can Register Interest in the 2022 London Marathon here >

If you can’t wait until then, there are plenty of marathon events across the UK in the next 12 months, for a list of events: UK Marathon Events 2021-2022 >