Over the years I've had a few injuries that stopped me running for a while, all of which I've returned to the level I was before if not better in a relatively short time (soon as it was safe to go for it!).
Personally I believe muscle memory and the will to get back plays a significant part. As well as that I've always cross trained where possible.
A groin tear took 2.5 months before I managed a slow(ish) 1k on a treadmill and close to four months before I could do an outdoor 10k at a similar pace to before. Amazingly I could use the eliptical after a month to give the heart and non-groin-related leg muscles a decent workout.
When I separated my shoulder it was a couple of months before it had the stability to take the run motion. Got my mojo back quite quickly.
One thing I will say is that although I find the first runs back tend to be at a similar pace, the leg muscles definitely feel it for a couple of days afterwards!! That'll lessen after a few runs however. Obviously it's better to start slow, but easier said than done if there's no pain at the time eh? Although a little cavalier with pace I always build the distance gradually following an injury.
See above for my personal recovery. For the record I'm no professional and my take on this is based only on the experience.
Have you seen a physio? I had a few sessions massaging the area. Ultimately I found rest and gradual escalation of exercise (based on feel) to work. It wasn't a quick fix- it did take a couple of months but I'm fine now.
When you mention the pain, does this happen during exercise or afterwards? Also on a scale of 1-10 how would you describe it? Is it sharp during certain movements? Generally naggy and dull? Does the area feel 'tight'? It may be that a footy match twice a week is too much to allow sufficient recovery.
Slightly different area, but when I injured my IT band a few years ago I had some adhesions (scar tissue) build up which a physio broke down with deep tissue massage. Before that it wasn't getting any better since the build up would rub during running and it'd become gradually inflamed, eventually forcing me to stop. A few (rather intense) massage sessions fixed it completely and it hasn't returned.
Anyway I'd recommend seeing a physio who possibly will want to work into the groin area. They're the pro however so they'll be able to give you meaningful advice and steps for recovery.
I used physioworld http://physioworld.net/ and got a bloke who used to be the physio for Crystal Palace. They're pretty good and located all over the country. Not massively expensive either. Recall it being £25-30 per sesh?
After the Liverpool Rock and Roll half/full marathon we received a free pint of Cobra beer. It was rock and roll however. I ran the half and it was gratefully received! After all, post-exercise beer counts double eh? There were nanas and healthier, more hydrating drinks on offer though.
Most race 'goody bags' I've experienced usually have some water and a mars bar.
Then again, I don't usually compete in serious races. There's always an element of fun in there which I guess goes with the whole junk food thing. Healthier food options would be nice however. I'm guessing that there aren't many 'healthy' food trucks around and junk food is much cheaper for the masses.
In normal circumstances I love a large cross section of pineapple and some protein.
Red bull can be a lifesaver also- once after a trail duathlon my body was so depleted I was weaving in my lane when driving home. Stopped at a garage and wolfed down a chicken salad sandwich and can of red bull. Perfect again.
Anyway, I'm rambling. I agree with the above that bringing your own stuff is a shout!
If anyone's experiencing similar symptoms to the issue here, my recovery was as follows:
Lower abdomen area was painful (moreso than the groin specifically), especially when attempting to run. Around 1.5 months after the injury I could barely run 10 metres since it activated the lower abdominal area. Cross Trainer (elliptical) was fine, as was walking at speed.
It was a simply a case of giving myself time to heal and gradually increasing intensity/length of exercise. Had a couple of physio treatments which massaged the groin and lower abdomen area.
Approx 2 months in- could use the concept2 rowing machine and run a treadmill kilometre.
Lower abdomen felt a little tight, twingy and ‘naggy’ at times but didn’t worsen. Actually felt better than before the test run the day after.
Gradually increased distance. First 5k treadmill 2.5 months in.
Since at around 3-3.5 months I’m back running outdoor 10k (same speed as before), full range of abs exercises and jumping plyo stuff (jump squats/lunges/skipping/burpees).
Occasionally it can mildly twinge but this lessens each time I exercise. It’s no big deal.
Next step is to get back on the squash court!
Anyway, if you land on this thread I hope this is of use. I was worried about hernias and all that stuff, but in this case it was about healing time, a bit of physio and gradual escalation of exercise.
I had an issue with my IT band after I strained it following a long cycle a couple of years back. When running I'd feel a tickle at 1.5miles then the pain would build gradually until it stopped me.
It was due to scar tissue (adhesions) from the initial injury rubbing and becoming inflamed. Possibly built up due to me being too eager after the strain and not allowing enough time to recover/no foam rolling.
Had a few sessions with a physio involving deep tissue work. Bloody painful breaking it all down but it worked amazingly and it hasn't returned!