Now that I’m officially DONE reporting on my running of the 113th Boston Marathon and DONE writing about my races (half-marathon PR, and 4-Miler not so PR), I’m going to take a break from talking about MY running by instead talking about YOUR running. In other words, I’m going to spent the next couple of posts addressing some reader questions I’ve received over the past month. I’ll start with ones that the most people have asked about and move on to ones that I find most interesting. Hopefully, you’ll find them somewhat insightful or entertaining, even if they are not useful…
The first one I’m going to tackle involves a scenario that is common to all of us marathoners. The basic premise: You set your sights on a hard but realistic goal for a particular marathon (For me: Sub-3; for reader: BQ). You develop a training plan and train your heart out for said goal. You feel ready for race day. However, during the marathon, something happens (an unexpected injury, GI issues, bad weather, bad running karma, etc) and you feel short of your goal. You cross the finish line a bit disappointed, feeling as if you could’ve or should’ve run much better. Question: Can I recover well enough in the next 2, 3, or 4 weeks to try again in a backup marathon within the next month, or should I restart on a new training cycle to try again in a marathon next season? My body isn’t so sore and I don’t want to lose my fitness/training.
I’m sure everyone has had similar thoughts right after a marathon that didn’t quite meet expectations. I had them, this reader had them. Heck, even Kara Goucher had them. In fact, the day I got home after Boston, I was already scrounging through the marathon calendar trying to see if there’s another one I could run within a month. I knew intuitively that this was a bad idea, but I didn’t know why. Maybe Coach Salazar was just off…Kara could’ve run London 2 weeks after Boston, can’t she? I thought to myself at the time. I didn’t know. So I spent the next few couple of weeks thinking about it some more and here’s my take.
First of all, I think the minutes, hours and days right after a marathon is NOT the time to plan out next one, whether your experience during the race was good or bad. Your mind and body has just undergone the shock of running a really long and hard race and is not yet ready to make sound rational decisions. Secondly, I think running a marathon (if you ran at close to race pace) destroys the body in ways that we cannot fully appreciate. If you ever run a hard 10K or half-marathon a week or two out from your marathon, you’d know what I mean. Even though by then you’re walking around normally and feel somewhat “recovered” ,you find out 2 to 3 miles into your race that you are still fatigued and sore. That’s because different muscle fibers regenerate at different rates. So even though your larger muscle groups that carry out your normal daily activities have almost fully recovered, your smaller ones, which are recruited later on in the race, haven’t recovered at all since the marathon. Again, that’s why there’s a rule to take 26 days of rest for a 26 mile race. But what if you just walked a quarter or even half the marathon because of an issue, either injury, fatigue or GI upset, can that marathon count as just a training run so I can run another in a couple weeks or so? My response would still be no because it will likely cause more harm than good and you won’t know or realize until you’re caught in the mid-later miles of your second marathon.
Another thing to realize is that despite the significance of personal goals, the time standard is still an arbitrary number. That number is as important as we ourselves assign them to be. And since time is a continuum, there will be new time goals to shoot for once we are done with the current one. Whether it’s sub-3 or a BQ, the important thing is to enjoy the process of achieving those goals, and not be so caught up in the goal itself. Easier said than done, right? Yeah I know, but I’m working on it too.
My last point on this question is that we should never think our marathon training as wasted if we don’t achieve a particular time in the race. These training cycles are built on the success of a previous cycle. So even though the race result wasn’t up to par with the training, the training you have undergone will equip you well for your next cycle. That’s what I’m telling myself to motivate me for NYCM training in the next couple of months.
I hope I did some justice to that question. How do you guys feel about racing back-to-back marathons without a break? Let me hear you in the comments.