Running is a repetitive, cyclic activity. As a result of the repetitive nature of running those involved generally end up with repetitive strain injuries. From a mechanics stand point running is a full body activity that involves all planes of motion. Most of us have restrictions in multiple places that lead to the repetitive forces of running becoming localized in certain spots. When these restrictions are present and someone constantly challenges them with repetitive movements the injuries are not terribly hard to predict.
What types of injury prevention strategies are worthwhile? Strength training is a great one, especially for endurance athletes. The basis of this suggestion is that endurance athletes already have endurance adapted muscles and neglect muscles that can create large amounts of force in short periods of time (fast twitch muscles). When faced with a situation where an injury is likely going to happen there is a need for fast twitch fibers to activate and protect the hard tissue of bone from taking too much strain by producing a corrective force and avoiding injuries. For the endurance athlete it is a very good idea to work on what I call total organism strength – how strong your WHOLE body is. For an example of what this might look like and performance benefits of heavy strength training check here (about halfway down the page).
Is stretching a good strategy? Maybe not, especially for the endurance runner. There has been research for and against static stretching. The possible issue with stretching for an endurance runner is that there is no proof that the tight muscle SHOULD be stretched. In a person that does repetitive work there is adaptation to become more efficient in performing the task and there are also reflexive adaptations to attempt to maintain stability of the entire body. There is also the issue that sensory nerves (primarily the muscle spindles) respond to overstretching a muscle by creating tension to protect the muscle and joint as well as sending pain signals. Consider also that without knowing that a muscle SHOULD be stretched just because it is tight suggests that stretching without a reason may actually cause more harm than good.
What about therapy? Depending on the therapeutic modality there may be the opportunity to prevent running injuries. If the therapy is primarily geared towards injury rehabilitation there may be limitations in the ability of the therapy to identify future problems and prevent them. Movement screening such as Gray Cook’s FMS has shown positive results and can be self guided (the primary mechanism is because there is a testing protocol that leads to a REASON to perform corrective measures).
As an Osteopathic Manual Therapist I am acutely aware that some things are just not possible to correct on your own. With Osteopathic Manual Therapy I look at how the entire body functions and moves through space. Once I find the restrictions I remove them so that the patient will then be able to distribute forces more evenly throughout their body and avoid repetitive strain injuries. I make sure that the repetitive strains do not set you up for future injury to secure your ability to enjoy your running regime for years to come.