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11/6/97

Claud and Dan,

Both of you asked about running during a four week period between marathons. I do not know of any "expert" advice on the subject from the established sources, other than the traditional, conservative less is better advice, so let me just tell you what I have done in the past.

Between 1983 and 1987, I ran back-to-back marathons 5 times. Each time MCM was the first one and the old Maryland Marathon (no longer run) was the second. I ran all of them as hard as I could, i.e., I didn't use any of them as an easy training or recovery run. The first and last years, Maryland was 2 weeks after MCM. In those years, Maryland was a very difficult race for me. Two weeks was just not enough recovery time. Twice it followed MCM by 4 weeks and once by 5 weeks. In those years, it was a better and stronger race for me than MCM. Maryland was considered to be about 10-12 minutes tougher than MCM by local area runners who frequently ran both. I ran it 8 and 9 minutes slower than MCM when they were 2 weeks apart. And from 3 minutes slower to 4 minutes faster than MCM when they were 4-5 weeks apart. I still consider Maryland of 1986 to be the best marathon I have run (3:24:51), though my 1988 and 1989 MCM's were faster (3:22:37 and 3:22:27).

As a result of my experiences, I believe that it is very possible to successfully run 2 marathons from one training program. In fact, in a way, the first marathon can serve as a valuable training element for the second. I think that the keys to success in the second one are:

1) Your ability to recover. The first thing you absolutely have to do after the first marathon is recover. It not only leaves you with depleted energy stores which have to be replenished, but the literal wear and tear on your muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones must be repaired. The rule of thumb is a day for every mile raced. For a marathon, this means essentially a full month. Thus, you should be able to run a second marathon after 4 weeks. Further, if you are lucky enough to be a person who recovers rapidly, you can push your training during the 4 weeks. On the other hand, if you feel listless, tired, achy, dead legs, or any such symptom in the 3rd and 4th week, I wouldn't attempt the second one.....at least, not as a hard race.

2) Your susceptibility to injury. If you have a history of injury, I wouldn't attempt back-to-back marathons, even if you feel good. But, if you have proven to be a sturdy runner who can "push the envelope" without a high risk of injury, or recover from injury easily and quickly, then I see minimum risk in going for it.

3) Your mental state. The test here is to ask yourself "Do I really want to do this and why? Or, do am I doing it just because I think I can?" It's not enough to just do it because it's there. There will be many more. And there are many years to do them. 

Every marathon brings a certain element of risk to our running. An injury can set us back at any time. I ran 13 marathons (plus 124 other races) in a span of 6 years at ages 45-51....every one as hard as I could....and paid a price. I finally suffered an injury that stopped me from running for almost 4 months. It, combined with other of life's complications, set me so far back that I am just now, after 7 years, getting fully back into it. My problem wasn't the common "too much, too soon" but instead was "too much, too long" for me. I'm a durable runner, but I should have taken an extended break somewhere along the line. Simply alternating 10k and marathon seasons for 7 years with 2-4 week R&R's between them wasn't enough "rest" at the age that I did it.

Having said all of that, to your question. Assuming that you want to do Philly after MCM, what should you do for the next 3 weeks. I assume that you have been recovering from MCM and haven't done a lot of running this week. At least, I am pretty sure that your body hasn't let you overdo it. For the remaining 3 weeks leading up to Philly, I suggest the following:

1) Weekly mileage - 2/3 to 3/4 of pre-MCM peak weekly mileage next week. Then repeat the last 2-week pre-MCM taper.

2) One long run of 16-18 miles during the next week. A second one of 12-14 miles the following would be OK, but only if you feel very good. If you do it, make sure it is before the final taper week, and skip number 4 below.

3) If you did speedwork in your training program for MCM, repeat what you did during the last 3 pre-MCM weeks.

4) An 8-10k race. I always ran a 10k race 2 weeks before the Maryland Marathon, except when it was 2 weeks after MCM. It was always one of my best 10k's of the year. More importantly, I think it really helped my second marathon. 10k racing is an excellent speed workout for marathons.

If you can handle this 3 week regimen, you should be able to run Philly better than MCM, even under similar conditions. In any event, you are both young enough that, if you feel no post-MCM aches and pains, you could simply run easily for the next 3 weeks and do Philly comfortably just for fun.

Basically, for marathons 4-6 weeks apart, a practical approach is to run a "reverse taper" after the first marathon, then taper again for the second one. "Reverse taper" simply means to run the taper you used before the first marathon in reverse. If they are 4 weeks apart and you use a two week taper, then a full reverse taper and second taper can be run. If you use a three week taper, then both the reverse taper and the second taper have to be abbreviated. For marathons 6 weeks apart, a full three week reverse taper and second taper can be run. Of course, you do have to be a bit flexible and adjust, especially during the reverse taper period, based on how you feel after the first marathon.

Jim2