(Crossing the finish line at the 2009 Marathon de Paris)
Now I know this is a golf fitness website and I hope none of you are interested in running marathons, but I found this article I wrote in 2010 or 2011 and thought I’d share it with the world since we are now in peak fall marathon season. There was a time in my life when this kind of thing was really important to me. I was living in NYC, running 20 + races/year, and, well, the NYC Marathon is quite a BIG DEAL if you live in NY. It kind of sweeps you up, like it or not. I have run 8 marathons in total. Four in NYC, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010 and my last marathon was the Chicago Marathon in 2012. That race is today, October 8th, 2023. If it interests you at all, I highly recommend watching a movie about marathon running that’s based on the Chicago Marathon of 2007. It’s called: Spirit of the Marathon and you can find it on YouTube. Great film and has an even better soundtrack!
Now back to the article about what to do after your marathon is over…..
If you’ve run and completed one of these races, congratulations! Having run seven marathons myself, and considering signing up for my eighth, I understand how much preparation goes into an event of this magnitude.
Some of you may have trained all year for this marathon, or at the very least, the last four months. You shared your glory with your friends and family after the race….you walked around the next day or two with your marathon medal around your neck…you spent the next
two or three weeks talking about how you could have run faster if you had only………But after about three weeks of that, it’s time to move on.
First Off: Recover & Regenerate
Some of you will rest and recover, while others will sign up for another marathon, triathlon, or similar endurance event before the sweat dries. While setting a new goal for yourself is commendable, continually exposing your body to the stresses of endurance training without the proper amount of recovery, may simply result in being disappointed with your performance results and bringing your body one step closer to orthopedic injury.
Running marathons is very stressful on the human body. Undoubtedly, it involves a deeper level of muscle and joint tissue healing and a more complete resetting of the endocrine and immune systems than that which occurs during your normal race and training cycle. Aside from just putting a strain on all of the muscles in your legs, arms, and torso, marathons can also affect your lungs and many of your other internal organs.
An Austrian study found that blood levels of antioxidant enzymes remained significantly reduced, while biomarkers of muscle damage and inflammation remained significantly elevated, in triathletes nearly three weeks after they had crossed an Ironman finish line. I would imagine that such abnormalities could be found in runners for at least a couple of weeks after they complete a high-workload training cycle culminating in a peak event such as a marathon. Because of this, it’s important that you take some time off from running after completing a marathon. Marathon runners and marathon coaches often suggest different time frames that you should use when resting after a marathon before running again or running another marathon. The most common recommendation for resting after a marathon and running again is 2 to 4 weeks, before running another marathon, 16 to 20 weeks.
On April 13, 2008, Ryan Hall finished 5th in the London Marathon with a time of 2:06:17-the fastest marathon time ever recorded by an American-born runner. Just 14 weeks later Hall ran the Beijing Olympic Marathon, finishing a disappointing 10th.Top-10 in the Olympic Marathon is nothing to be ashamed of, but Hall knew he could have done better.
After the Games, Hall confessed that his pre-Olympic training had gone poorly. He just couldn’t match the times he was accustomed to posting in key workouts, and the more he fell short the more he tried to force his training, and the more he forced it the worse he felt. In the immediate aftermath of Beijing, Hall wasn’t sure exactly why he had not been his usual self in the summer of 2008, but eventually, he figured it out. “Looking back on it,” he said in a recent interview on runnersworld.com, “I think I never let my body totally recover from London so I never made the physical gains that I needed to.”
Many years ago, when asked how long one should wait after running a marathon before running another one, the great Bill Rodgers said, “Until you’ve forgotten it.” Ryan Hall probably defied this wisdom!
For many runners, training cycles are year-round. No change from month to month, season to season. However proper training for sports involves training cycles, with intense strength training and conditioning programs that lead into the season’s schedule or event training program.
A runner can no more expect to train progressively year-round than a cornfield can expect to produce corn in spring, summer, fall, and winter. The body needs time to heal. Most professional and high-level competitive runners rest two to four weeks after completing a training cycle. The average should not be trying to emulate the professional runners’ training cycle. A high-level runner has a team looking after them; a coach, trainer, massage therapist, physiotherapist, nutritionist, etc. They run, eat, and sleep. That’s it! The average runner is trying to cram in their miles within the confines of their forty to sixty-hour workweek along with everyday responsibilities without the benefit of a team.
Create an Off-Season
With the fall marathon season ending in November and with two to four weeks of rest post-race, the winter holiday season is right on its heels….an ideal off-season for a runner should begin in January of the new year. The off-season allows the runner to: rest and recover from months of intense training, recover from injury, and implement an off-season strength training and running training strategy. The off-season lasts 16 weeks. The same amount of time it takes to prepare for a marathon. This is the time it takes to establish a fitness foundation that will stand up to the demands of being an endurance athlete and allow the athlete to reduce the rate and risk of overuse injuries that plague endurance athletes as well as lead to improved performance.
Rather than using the spring race schedule to “get in shape”, runners should “be in shape” and simply use races to sharpen their times.
End of PART 1