After the ‘runners high‘ of completing a marathon comes the ‘runners low’ of realising the enormity of what you have done and realising it will be some time before you get to the next marathon finish line. I have a favourite corner in the Perth City to Surf and funnily enough it is the last one before the finish straight at the bottom of a good sized down hill. I’ve ran that corner 7 times and every time I know all there is left is to ‘ham it up’ for the crowd and the ‘marathon photos’ photographers. All I need to worry about is getting that finishing shot that will one day join hundred of other finishing shots on a yet to be purchased study wall, where I will surround myself with pictures of me running marathons. (Actually typing that it sounds a little bit sad but not sad enough to stop me investing ( wasting) money of more photographs of myself covered in sweat and carboshotz with a smile that would make a Cheshire Cat look gloomy.!) It is a wonderful corner and when I’m training I sometimes run past it and it always puts a smile on my face. Of course, being a busy intersection, if I ever tried to recreate that ‘finishing feeling’ I’d probably get run over by a truck! Once a year though that corner is mine and it makes me the happiest marathon runner on the planet, for that moment in time. That’s where the runners high starts and it last all the way to the finish line a few hundred metres down the road. Those few hundred metres are magical and even typing this now I can’t wait to get there again at the end of August 2018 and explode to the finish, milking the crowd for everything I can.
Each marathon I have ever ran has had that magical finish and on a few occasions I’ve been brought to tears due to an over whelming out pouring of joy. Crying tears of joy is something that does happen and it just adds to the mystic of running marathons. This has not happened that often, probably a handful of times but when it does it makes everything that has gone before it seem worth while. From memory when I ran my first Comrades, and my last, I was certainly moved to tears and my fastest Perth marathon in 2013 was also an emotional finish That may be it, three finishes from 60 starts (if you include ultra-marathons). This may have something to do with the last few years mimicking Usain Bolt when I finish followed by press-ups (which are getting harder , trust me!) No worries, all marathon finishes are special , just some are really special. Those three are enough to make me come back again and again, just one more tearful finish, like a marathon junkie looking for that one last big hit?
This bring me to the point of this post, finally. (I have mentioned I digress sometimes haven’t I?) With all things there is a Yin and Yang, a positive and a negative, an up and a down. (There are probably a few more of these but you get the idea.) After the high of the marathon finish comes the low of the recovery week. This is probably compounded by the taper pre-marathon which results in a 3-4 week period of little running. Thus when you start again, after the marathon, it is normally a very painful experience where your legs feel like wooden blocks and your heart rate is 10-20bpm higher than normal. If you have a Garmin 235 I guarantee your VO2 max score is also lower. I always give myself 3 days of completely when I will also indulge in some of the forbidden fruit us runners try to avoid when training. More visits to Yelo than normal and maybe the odd packet of dark chocolate digestives (or two). This week you don’t have to worry about weight gain or diets just enjoy your time as you have certainly earned it. Release that ‘sweet tooth tiger’ that you spend the rest of the year caged up. If you run in the week after a marathon you do so out of some sort of need to keep active. I personally don’t feel you need to as I reckon it’s the same as the week before a marathon, you can only do too much , never too little. This translates to no running can sometimes be the better option.
So do I take the whole week off ? Hell no ! Do as I say not as I do. I normally take Monday to Wednesday off but then get back into it Thursday albeit slowly, very slowly. This week for instance I even gave myself until Thursday and made the first run a 17k easy run. The second run on Friday was a lot harder. I personally find the second run after a marathon the hardest, maybe a DOMS thing? (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) On Saturday I planned a 20k easy run but turned at 7k and only made 14k. No problem, when you are recovering you really need to adjust any workouts to how your are feeling. If you aren’t feeling it, no problem, stop. Doing nothing really is the best option in this week. This was highlighted today when I put on my running gear for an afternoon 20k but decided against it. Got changed, had some toast, felt guilty and then put on my running gear again before again taking it off and deciding walking the dogs was the better option. Do I feel this was the wrong thing to do now as I type this post? . No, I think I may actually be learning my lesson listening to my body for a change, actually quite proud of myself for making the right decision two days in a row, Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks ? Right Yelo anybody……
I’ve attached a post from the McMillan Running website as a guide ( https://www.mcmillanrunning.com/payback-time-a-two-week-scientific-plan-to-optimize-recovery-after-your-marathon/) Some very useful points that are worth taking onboard.
It’s at this time of the year that marathon recovery, not marathon training, starts to take center stage. The best recovery is one that optimizes your musculoskeletal recovery yet also maintains your conditioning. You’ve built superior fitness before the marathon and you don’t want to lose all of it and then have to start from scratch.
Research indicates that the muscle damage from running a marathon can last up to two weeks. The research also indicates that soreness (or the lack thereof) is not a good indicator of muscular healing. In other words, just because you aren’t sore anymore doesn’t mean that you are fully healed. This is the danger for marathon runners: post-marathon muscular soreness fades after a few days but submicroscopic damage within the muscle cells remains. If you return to full training too soon–running more and faster than the tissues are ready for–you risk delaying full recovery and the chance to get ready for your next goal.
The solution, it appears, is to recognize (and accept) that the muscles will take a while to heal and to be prepared to take it easy for the first couple of weeks (even longer if you’re particularly sore after your marathon). While the research isn’t very promising when it comes to things to do to relieve soreness and aid healing, a couple of concepts appear to help. First, providing gentle blood flow to the area helps bring healing nutrients into the muscles and also helps to remove waste products and damaged tissue. Walking and gentle massage can help, particularly in the first few days after a marathon. Once muscle soreness has significantly reduced (usually two to four days after the race), light jogging can commence. The recovery program above forces a runner to let muscles fully heal but also provides some light jogging to aid blood flow and “feed the need” that we all have for our daily runs. Just be mindful to run very slowly.
No runner wants to get super fit and then lose that during the recovery process. But since you must reduce your training load following your marathon, it can be tricky as to how much and how soon to insert running into your post-marathon training.
The bad news is that no matter what you do, you will lose race sharpness. But that’s OK because your next big race is probably several months away. The good news is that most research indicates that as long as there is an aerobic stimulus once every two to three days, aerobic fitness will be maintained. In this recovery plan, you run at least once every other day (except for the first two days after the marathon) to minimize any loss of base fitness.
Many runners liken recovery training to a “reverse taper” without the fast workouts. Easy running is gradually increased over the weeks post-race. By the fourth week, your normal level of training is approached.
Recovery time is also the best chance to pay back your support system for the help provided during your build-up to and participation in the marathon. Use this time to help others with goals, whether running-related or not, and spend more time with family and friends.
Also use this opportunity to celebrate your success and recharge your systems. Determine what went right in training and in the race and what you would fix. If done correctly, you can come out of this period fully healed and ready to take your marathon fitness into the next training phase.
Now it’s time to use your marathon fitness before you lose it – read Turning Marathon Fitness into 5K/10K PRs.
Optimal Marathon Recovery Program
Notes: Can include gentle walking for 15 to 20 minutes. Eat well and stay hydrated to facilitate recovery. Ice baths are favored by many runners (read more about ice baths).
Notes: Can include gentle walking for 15 to 20 minutes.
Run: 20 Mins Very Slow + Easy
Notes: The first run back is often very awkward so go slow and run on flat terrain.
Notes: Don’t forget to enjoy the accomplishment of your marathon.
Run: 20 Mins Very Slow + Easy
Notes: Muscle soreness should be subsiding.
Run: 30 Mins Very Slow + Easy
Notes: You may not feel like a runner but you are laying the groundwork for your next training cycle.
Run: 20 Mins Very Slow and Easy
Notes: The first back to back running day provides insight into how the recovery is going.
Run: 30 Mins Easy
Notes: The muscle soreness should be gone and you are finding your stride again.
Run: 30 to 45 Mins Easy
Notes: Depending on how your body feels, you should notice the pace increasing and your body returning to its running rhythm.
Run: 45 to 60 Mins Easy
Run: 30 to 45 Mins Easy
Notes: You should now start to feel like a runner again, just not a runner ready to race. Over the next two weeks, gradually increase your volume toward your normal training level.