Jim2's Running Page

Recovering From A Marathon

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12/18/97 

There are 3 basic components of marathon recovery....muscular, chemical and psychological. Muscular recovery is often the fastest of the three. Basically, you can get right back into your normal running/training routine as soon as any soreness is gone from your legs and they feel reasonably fresh again. Glover says that most runners can usually get back to normal training mileage and intensity after 2 weeks of easy running following a marathon, though 4 weeks or longer is not uncommon. I have found that I'm ready to step back into normal training after a week.

A person might need more or less time to regain chemical balance. You can tell if you need more time when your muscles are ready to handle the mileage and speed of normal training, but it is very hard to do, or you even can't do it.....the engine sputters and just can't make the wheels turn.

Psychological recovery is very individual. Most marathoners can almost count on a psychological "down" shortly following the euphoria of the marathon. For many, it's brief. For some, a post-marathon depression sets in that might last for weeks, or longer. I think the two most significant factors are the satisfaction of your marathon and, especially, whether you have subsequent goals to focus on. If the marathon is just one milestone in a longer range plan, the psychological recovery is much easier and faster. If it is a "final" goal, then when it's over, it's over....and you are left adrift.

The need for chemical and psychological recovery is much less in shorter distance racing, since these factors are not taxed nearly as much as in a marathon. But, the stress on muscles can be as great or greater than a marathon, because of the intensity of these races. You run them much closer to your peak ability. Microscope damage is done to muscle fibers and muscular recovery is important. It just takes a lot less time than a marathon. Using the one-day-per-mile-raced rule, you could run 10k's on consecutive weekends. But, I wouldn't do that very often. When I am in my 10k racing phase following a 12 week training period, I like to race every 2-3 weeks for a 2-3 month period, with continued training between races. I don't race on consecutive weeks more than a few of times per year....and seldom anything longer than 10k.

Recovery continues as you train, as long as you don't overdo it....and that takes listening to your body. After all, what you do in training, including long runs and speed work, is less stressful than the race was.

I usually run short and easy, or not at all, the day after a 10k. Then, I go right back into my normal running program the second day. After a marathon, I will keep the running relatively short (mostly 5-8 miles and nothing longer than 10 miles) and easy for as many days as it takes for my legs to tell me that they are ready for long runs and speed work again. It usually takes me a few days. I'm always ready to go back to training by the second week. If I'm going to run a second marathon 4-5 weeks after the first one, I do a long run of 16-20 miles 2-3 weeks after the first marathon and then taper for the second marathon. I also like to run a hard 10k midway between the two marathons.....and it's always a good one. A marathon really sets me up for a good 10k 2-3 weeks afterwards.....and I have no problem recovering sufficiently for a 10k by then.

Everyone is different. Some reduce their mileage drastically and do nothing but easy running during the full recovery period. Some continue with a normal training regimen. Others do something in between these two extremes.

It all just depends on how easily you recover. And, that partly depends on how well prepared you were for your marathon, how difficult the course was, and how hard you ran it. Those factors will determine how much "damage" has to be repaired during your recovery.

Everything I have said here presumes that the races that necessitate recovery are run hard. Obviously, we can run races of almost any distance as often as we wish, if we are running them well within our ability.

One last comment, especially since this is the Beginning Forum. The earlier a runner is in his/her running life, the more conservative s/he should be in all aspects of his/her running program, including recovery. Beginners should take the time to learn their limitations gradually. As they become more "veteran" as runners, they can push their boundaries to see how far they can expand them.

Jim2