Running After A Marathon – Weekly Review – 3.29.20

This week was a nice mixture of rest and recovery, and getting back into the swing of things.  I’ve gotten a few questions on my thoughts about running after a marathon, and I think it’s a hard subject to give blanket advice on timeline wise.  Runners World recommends 3-7 days, while RunnersConnect recommends at least one week. While there may not be a firm, prescribed way to return to running after a marathon, I do want to share the general process I follow in the days and weeks post-marathon. 

For me, I spent most of the first half of this week recovering and taking my son for some hikes around the nature preserve down the street from us. He was actually able to do a three mile loop with me on Tuesday, which was pretty fantastic. On Wednesday afternoon, I met up with a sports reporter from a local station here in San Antonio to talk about the virtual marathon I ran on Saturday, and the importance of running during this really hard time in history. It was another great experience.

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Hiking with my favorite kid

And I have to be honest, while this COVID-19 pandemic has had a lot of negative consequences (globally and personally), it’s also brought me some really incredible opportunities.  It’s given me the chance to interview (you can watch here) with two different local news stations, and the opportunity to share the message of why running is so important and valuable.  It’s allowed me to spend more time with both of my boys and to get creative about how I work out.  It’s also forced me to really assess my priorities and how I work them into my life.  I’m not happy about not being able to go to CrossFit, or the shelter in place order, or the thousands of people who are sick or unemployed.  But I think it goes to show that there’s always lessons to be learned.

Related Post: My Marathon was Cancelled Because of Coronavirus

Later in the week, I started off with some short runs in the morning and some easy workouts in the afternoons.  It’s been nice to have a small break, and to be back in the mindset of running just to run.  Not to hit paces.  Not to prepare for a race.  Not to get to a certain fitness level.  Just to move my body.  I’m definitely looking forward to training for a 50 miler, since I always love new adventures.  But for now, I will enjoy the pressure-free miles.

Related Post: How We’re Keeping Our Kid Active During COVID-19

Running After A Marathon

For the past several marathon training blocks that I’ve run, I’ve only taken a short period of time off to recover and then got right back into training for the next race.  It’s not something I recommend, but I rarely follow my own damn advice.  With no formal races in the near future, I’m taking this opportunity to reset and shift gears a little more than I have recently.  There’s some trail races I’m interested in later in the summer that I’ll use to build up to my 50 miler in the fall.

So for now, I’m focusing on shifting over to trail running, versus road racing.  Here’s what the post-marathon, step-by-step, returning to running process is looking like for me, and what I recommend for my clients.

Take Some Time to Rest
I did take a few days to rest, but normally I would recommend a good week after a full marathon (if not longer depending on how you feel). This last marathon distance was very different for me, though. My pacing was kept at an easy effort, and I stopped for a few minutes twice to talk to my boys. I noticed that I was pretty pooped for the rest of the weekend, but I definitely wasn’t having a hard time moving around like I normally do after an all out race. The Sunday after the Dallas Marathon, I was hobbling around anytime I sat for longer than 10 minutes. This was not the case after my virtual run.

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Spending a little extra time on the couch lately

Additionally, this was my 8th marathon.  I can’t say that recovery is easier or faster after the first few marathons, but I can say you do learn a few things that are helpful.  After this most recent marathon, I really focused on getting a lot of sleep over the weekend, and the early portion of the following week.  I slept in every morning, and took naps around lunch time, and went to bed early.  I also went on quite a few hikes on some soft trails, which seemed to really help my body recover.  Finally, I made sure to get in some good stretching before and after the race.  All of these things helped me to bounce back fairly quickly, and while I won’t be hitting the track for speed workouts anytime soon, I have felt good during my easy runs.

Determine Next Steps
After getting some well-deserved rest, it’s time to consider your options and determine what’s next.  There’s no wrong answer here, but I always like to make sure my coaching clients know there are a lot of different things they can do after running a half or full marathon.  The most popular decision (for my clients) seems to be to focus on base building.  After a race, and the rest that follows, you’d be surprised at how your body may not be ready to jump right back into running long distances that you were running just a few weeks prior.  I usually recommend focusing on getting really comfortable with the step-down distance from whatever you just ran.  So if you finished a half-marathon, focusing on getting really comfortable with a 10k distance.  For a marathoner, focusing on getting really comfortable with a half-marathon distance.

And I don’t mean being able to survive a 10k or half-marathon run, I mean being REALLY comfortable.  Like, you could wake up and walk out the door on any day of the week, and run the distance without an issue.  This is going to mean that you’ll be running distances slightly longer for your long runs. Focusing on base building will allow you to start from a stronger position when you decide that you want to race again.  And trust me, I haven’t met very many people who truly are one and done-rs.  Once you drink the kool-aid, it’s really hard to go back. 

Another option is to focus on racing shorter distances.  This is similar to base-building, but focuses more on speed than distance.  It can be hard, but also a lot of fun.  After you’ve run a marathon, you might have an easier time training to PR your half-marathon distance, because you’ve got such a solid base.  You might decide you don’t want to base build or run shorter distances, but want to get back into training for another endurance race, which is not an issue. 

But it is helpful to consider hiring a coach to make sure you take enough rest time and get back into training intelligently.  It’s really easy to overtrain, burn out, or injure yourself being blinded by the excitement of racing.  A good coach will tell you when you need to get your butt off the couch, and also when you need to get your butt back on it for a while. If you have any questions about what a coaching relationship might look like, please feel free to reach out via my Contact Me page.

Finally, you might decide that you want to take a running break.  You might want a little more free time in your day to day life to pursue other hobbies, or just enjoy Netflix on Saturday mornings.  You might want to shift your focus onto a different sport, or spend some time on a non-athletic interest.  I do recommend continuing some sort of regular exercise routine, mostly for mental health reasons.  Post-marathon blues are a real thing, and most of us could use a little more (rather than less) sanity in our lives.

My Plan – Shifting to Trails
For me, I’ve been pretty clear on my post-marathon plans for a while. Towards the end of my last marathon training block I shared that I was getting fairly Sick of Speedwork. But I love running, and I’m just not wired to not have goals that I’m working towards. I get bored and can’t sit still and start driving everyone around me crazy. I’ve known that I wanted to go for a 50 mile race, and I decided that after this last marathon attempt 50 miles would be the goal to start working towards.

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Looking forward to exploring more

I took a look at the race options around me, and I picked a self-supported (mostly) 50 miler that is scheduled for October.  Now, technically, I could start training for that race right now.  Six months isn’t a COMPLETELY unreasonable amount of time to train for a race of that distance. But I’m not really interested in that long of a training block. Instead, I’m going to focus on base building for a few weeks (maybe 6 or so) before I shift into training for a 50k race that will be part of my build up the 50 miler.

For now, I’m going to focus on getting comfortable with the 14-16 mile range.  I’ll probably keep most of my long runs around 15-17 miles, with my weekly mileage somewhere around 50 miles.  I’m planning on incorporating some trail running over the summer, which I’m really excited about.  Something that I have to keep in mind is the fact that trail running is much slower, and therefore takes a longer amount of time.  So I won’t be exclusively trail running.  If I did, I’d basically have a part-time job on my hands.  And I think my husband would certainly take issue; not to mention the fact that at some point I do need to get some sleep.

So for the next couple of weeks, I’ll be running moderate distances at an easy pace.  I plan on gradually including some trail miles into my overage milage, when I can afford the additional time.  I also plan on spending some time doing a little research on trail running tips.  I’m pretty excited to spend more time on some softer surfaces. If you’ve got any advice for shifting over to trail running after road racing, please send it my way!

Related Post: Staying Healthy & Sane During Social Distancing

This Weeks Workouts

Total Miles: 30
Total Workouts: 4
How the Runs Felt
I went out for my first run this week on Wednesday. I kept the pace steady and easy, and honestly I felt great the entire time. There were no lingering aches or pains or soreness, which was a little surprising to me. I think all of the hiking earlier in the week, and the stretching on Sunday and Monday really helped. Friday, I went a little further and got in 8 miles. All of my runs this week were done in the morning, because most of the afternoons had rain forecasted. Earlier this month I had been scheduling my runs during the afternoon and running with my son. Since he wouldn’t be joining in me in the rain, I ran earlier in the morning before work. It took a little getting used to running in the dark, but by Saturday I was pretty much back in my groove.

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Saturday’s long run

On Saturday I ran a longish 10 miler, and felt really good the whole time. It was chilly and rainy, so my pace was fairly fast, but it felt so nice to have a few hours on my feet after reducing my mileage the last couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to increasing my long runs and getting more comfortable with slow, easy runs over the next several weeks.

What I’ve Been Listening To
I’ve been listening to the GingerRunner Live episodes that I’ve missed over the past couple of weeks, along with one of my old favorites; The First Degree.  There were a couple of episodes on the Black Dahlia murder, and they were incredibly interesting.  I need to finish up Atlanta Monster and Up and Vanished.  If you’ve got any new recommendations, please let me know!

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Living room workouts

How the WODs felt
I started out the week with a nice and easy resistance band workout. Once I felt like I was ready to go, I shifted into a couple of one dumbbell and kettlebell workouts. Even though the weather hasn’t been great, I’ve been able to workout on my balcony, and it’s been nice to get outside for a little bit of my lunch break. I’m still impressed with just how good of a workout I’ve been able to get with limited equipment. I’ve continued posting home Workouts that I’m also sharing on my Instagram and Facebook stories.

What Went Well
This week was a nice little break from the high mileage I’ve been running for the last several months.  I’ve gotten really caught up on sleep, which did not suck at all.  I got in a good amount of stretching and core work this week, too.  Everything has been feeling good after the marathon, and I’m looking forward to shifting gears to some trail running.

What Went Shitty
I’m not the best at resting.  I probably could have taken a few more days off before returning to running.  I’m glad that I haven’t had any injuries or issues, but honestly I would not be thrilled if I were coaching myself.  But I know running is also an important part of my mental health, and these are some strange times we are dealing with.  So hopefully if I can keep things balanced, my body won’t revolt.

Related Post: Exercise and Anxiety

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