Thursday, January 25, 2018

On Marathon Recovery & Running vs. Not Running

Many people look forward to some down time after marathons, but I have never been one of those people.  If a marathon goes well, I'm on a runners high and anxious to jump back into training (also always thankful/never satisfied).  If a marathon doesn't go well, I'm ready to avenge it and put in work for the next one (big goals require big commitment).  I am very routine-oriented and running is part of my daily routine.  I also have quite the running endorphin addiction, which I am pretty sure means I am much less pleasant to be around if I'm not running (please tell me I'm not the only one with this issue!)!

Prior to Houston, I decided that I needed to take a week completely off running after the race.  I was feeling hot and cold about my running, and my performance between CIM and Houston was also up and down (the brutal winter did not help!).  I basically did a 30 week marathon training block, with a 24 week build for CIM then a 6 week addendum for Houston, which is a lot now that I think about it (perhaps part of the Houston problem was this being too long!).  My experience at Houston further confirmed that I needed some time off.  Plus, a week off is what you're "supposed" to do, right?

I'd inadvertently started a running streak on June 20, not because I ever planned to streak but because I was running 7 days a week for marathon training.  After CIM I continued the streak by running for 10 minutes and 20 minutes in the two days after the race, then I rolled into Houston training, making for almost 7 months with no days off.  This is nothing compared to most streakers out there, but I used to take a day off every week and had never come near this kind of running streak in my life!

Although I knew my body needed some down time, I had a hard time convincing myself not to run a mile the day after Houston.  My mind kept saying, "Keep the streak!" while my body said, "Break it!"  The snow on the ground and bitter wind chills on top of my post-marathon exhaustion (exacerbated by 11 hours in the car, an 11:00 p.m. return home, and minimal sleep after the race) helped me accomplish my streak-breaking goal!  After I didn't run that first day I suspected it would be easy to take off several more days.  I thought it would feel really good not to run and to eat all of the desserts that I'd avoided for months for the sake of best fueling my training.

On day 2 (Tuesday), I wanted to run, which surprised me!  I didn't, because I didn't want to badly enough to run on the treadmill (the roads were bad enough that schools were closed for 3 days), but the desire was back much sooner than I expected.  I made myself take a few more days off and continued to eat 7 months worth of sweets (eating crap food also helps you take more days off).  I figured I would run again on the weekend after 5 solid days of not running - but on Friday I was jumping out of my skin, the roads were clear enough, and it was warm out, so went out for 4 miles in a t-shirt and shorts at lunch.  I then ran with joy over the weekend.

When I'd asked my coach for no training schedule for 2 weeks after Houston, I fully believed that I wouldn't run at all for the first week and maybe not even for the whole 2 weeks.  I resumed running because I missed it and I wanted to, not because I felt like I had to train for something; in fact, I know that time off right now would certainly help me more than hurt me.  During my second week of "whatever", I've been running easy every day.  It's definitely a "want to" vs. a "have to".

It's also a good reminder that I simply love to run; even if I wasn't training for anything or racing, I would still run.  When I quit collegiate running due to repeated stress fractures, I didn't race again for nearly 3 years, but I consistently ran 4-5 days a week and even ran hard workouts when I felt like it.  The joy truly is in the process, but sometimes you need some time away - whether that is 4 days, 4 weeks, 4 months, of 4 years.  The thing about running is that it will always be there when you are ready to come back.

Everyone recovers in their own way, and I think it's smart to take time off after marathons.  A wise runner told me, "You never get that time back", which has me planning to be more strategic about this next time.  I don't think I did bad this round, but I can do better.  I've been reminded that I never want as much time off after a marathon as I think I will! 

I think it's healthy to want a break.  But I don't think it's unhealthy to not want one.  I realized that from following so many runners on social media, I was getting these thoughts planted in my head: that I should want a week to a month off, that I should be burned out on running, that I should be run down and sore, that I should want to eat crap food, etc., but those things weren't necessarily what I felt or wanted.  I need to recover but I always like to remember why I love to run and train in the first place!
Not really!


  1. We're all so different. I'm still surprised by people telling other people what they should think and do.

    1. I rephrased that sentence; it wasn't very clear. No one actually told me what I should think or do, but I kept seeing other people in certain patterns and began thinking it was the "right" way. That doesn't mean I'm right, but I'm doing my best. :-)

  2. You are not the only one! On my days off Carter will actually ask me if I’m going to run. I think it’s because I’m not as patient!

    I’m with you on not necessarily taking time off after a marathon but just taking it easy. I took a week off after mine since I’d had some pain all season and then ended up with a 2nd week off due to strep. It was soooo hard coming back and I felt so out of shape! I’d rather have taken only one week off or just run easy that whole time and come back feeling stronger.

    That build was so long!!! I don’t think my body could have handled it! That shows how well Marshall’s training is working that you were able to do it without getting injured!

    1. Haha, I love that Carter asks you that! You know it's true when it comes from the mouths of kids.

      The time off/easy post-race can be a hard balance, and I think it can be different for each person after each marathon. I imagine I need a little more time since that cycle was SO long and I did 2 marathons off of it - but I feel good so want to jump back in! I am anxious to have a training schedule again next week so I don't have to wonder if I am doing too much or too little, and I learned that I will not try to go 2 weeks without a schedule next time!

      Have you laid out your spring racing schedule? I am working on mine!