Getting Back to Running Post-Marathon

It’s been nearly a month since I ran my marathon, and tonight I’m [finally] planning to go for my first run since.

I’ve read a lot about post-marathon recovery and how much rest time one should take. It’s no surprise that suggested recovery time varies depending on who you talk to. And, of course, that time also depends on how you felt during and after your race. Did you finish feeling good, with only (understandable) soreness? Or did you hurt during the race, something felt injured, perhaps you were limping around when you finished? If that’s the case, you need some extra time off your feet to heal.

We all know running 26.2 miles is a HUGE stress on your body, and even your mind. The training leading up to it can also impact your social life, work life, and other aspects of your everyday well-being. For those reasons, I think it’s even more important to take ample time off after a marathon to not only let your body heal, but also so you play catch-up with those other areas of your life: family, friends, work, neglected home duties, etc.

I’ve heard for years that elite runners take off one day for every mile of a race, so typically they’ll take around 21 days off after a marathon. THREE weeks?! Most runners out there cringe thinking about taking that much time off.

In my case, I felt I needed to take at least a whole week off of ANY working out after the marathon. My right knee hurt quite bad right after the race, so I knew the overuse had probably done a little damage. Plus, I was looking forward to the mental rest, being able to come straight home from work and relax, sleeping in on Saturday morning, working on organizing & setting up neglected rooms in our new home, and more. I told myself I could take two weeks off completely, and I didn’t feel guilty about it one bit.

By week two, I was starting to crave the run again: The cathartic steadying breath, watching the scenery float by as my mind cleared of all thought, the sweaty feeling of triumph after pounding out the miles.

I missed running.

And that’s SO important! After 5 months of training, it’s easy to get burned out on running. Take some time off so you can remember how much you love it, what it means to you, and don’t start again until you WANT to—not because you feel you HAVE to. I have several friends who had signed up for races after the marathon, who felt pressured to get back to running after just a few days off. Don’t stress yourself out like that, don’t make yourself HAVE to run. Want to.

Right when I planned to pick up running again, I came down with this cold/bronchitis terrible twosome. But yesterday, feeling 95% back to normal (minus a naggy cough), when a friend asked me if I wanted to join her for a run this evening, I knew it was time to jump back in. I’ve felt ready for it, I’ve been craving it, I’ve been feeling that tickle in my feet to get back out there. And I couldn’t be more excited for it.

Now…if only it weren’t going to be a balmy 40 degrees, I’d say it would be a perfect running night. 😉

How long do you take off to recover after a big race?

What do you do to recover?


The Stages of Marathon Recovery (a.k.a. What the Heck to Expect When It’s Over)

Ever since I ran my first marathon about 10 days ago, I’ve been on a post-marathon high. I’m probably one of those cliché, annoying runners, who talks about it every chance she gets. But, hey—I ran a freakin’ marathon! I worked hard for months, I’m super proud of myself for getting there… People get to talk about their kids or pets all the time, so I am going to talk about my running. 🙂


Luckily, you’re all here voluntarily.

I have to say, recovering from the marathon didn’t take as long as I thought it would. People keep trying to tell me that’s because I’m only 26. Ha

But for me, I went through what I shall call the 4 Stages of Marathon Recovery…

Stage 1: The Day of the Marathon (a.k.a. PAIN)
I shuffled around; groaned a lot; and had trouble lifting my legs, er, at all. I popped Advil like it was my job. Stairs were a joke. Sitting = heavenly. My right knee felt like a 90-year-old’s. I probably looked like a 90-year-old. Passersby and strangers stared a bit—I just made sure my medal was blingin’.

Why yes, I feel like I'm about to fall over and I'm caked in salt. Please take my picture.

Why yes, I feel like I’m about to fall over and I’m caked in salt. Please take my picture.

Stage 2: The Day after the Marathon (a.k.a. Why is that sore now? )
Walking was halfway back to normal. My knee felt akin to a 70-year-old’s knee—quite painful going up and down the stairs. Working from home, sitting on the couch with my legs propped up, was the best ever. But, every time I stood up, the soreness came flooding back like a tidal wave. Ooph. With slightly less leg achiness came newly sore body parts—my back, my shoulders, my lower abs, my arms. What a lovely surprise! I wanted to go to bed by 7pm.

Stage 3: Two Days after the Marathon (a.k.a. Advil = Life)
Popping all that Advil over the last few days must have helped. Walking around felt pretty normal. But, after sitting at my desk for an hour or more, getting up and stretching my legs felt like straightening out tightly-wound Slinkies. My knee was progressing to a 60-year-old’s doesn’t-yet-need-to-be-replaced knee. My appetite was voracious. My fatigue was returning to normal, and I stayed awake until almost 9pm. Woo.

Stage 4: Three Days after the Marathon (a.k.a. Did I really do that?)
The return to normalcy! Walking, sitting, standing, even squatting to pee = normal. Joy. Only the outside of my hips still felt a bit sore, and that was only if I jiggled them around weird to see if they still hurt. Ha. The pain had worn down, the euphoria was still in full-swing, but with passing time the marathon began to seem like a dream.* My appetite wasn’t slowing down. A giant bakery cupcake may or may not have made a minor appearance at dinner before disappearing into my bottomless pit of a stomach.

And now I suppose I’ve entered stage 5…

Stage 5: Ten Days after the Marathon (a.k.a. What’s Next?)
I’ve enjoyed taking the last 10 days off from running. I’ve been relaxing, getting a lot of ignored housework done, and just spending time with friends and family. It’s nice not rushing to leave work to go run before it gets dark; or just simply come home after work to make dinner and relax the rest of the night with my fiancé. But, the itch is creeping back up…The urge to run and see how these legs feel again…To get out in the crisp air, eating it up by the lungful as my feet kiss the road and leave it behind me. Soon, I will get back out there.

But not today. Today, I’m enjoying the triumph for just a while longer.

*Yes, the marathon seems like a dream, not a nightmare. Like I said, we runners are a rare, special breed…  

How do you feel mentally and physically after you reach a big goal or race? How long do you take “off” afterwards, to recharge yourself?

My running buddy Liz finished the Chicago Marathon, but it didn’t quite go as planned; then she went on to run a half marathon last weekend with a PR for the year. Wow! I guess we all recover differently, huh?

Chicago Marathon Training, Week 14 Recap

Fourteen weeks down, and only three more to go until the Chicago Marathon. I’ve been able to increase my running this week, so I’m stoked! But, with time ticking down, I’m starting to get nervous about how that 26.2 mile run will go…

Sunday, September 15th: rest
With lots of stretching.

Monday: 5 miles 35 minute run/walk (4r:2w ratio)
Like all my run/walks, I started my workout with 5 minutes of walking to warm up, and some stretching. Then, I did 5 rounds of 4-minutes running + 2-minutes walking. I felt good the whole time—yay! No uncomfortable feeling in my knees or hips like I had on Saturday. I cooled down with 15 minutes of walking to get some extra time on my feet.

Total of 49 minutes & 3.64 miles.

Tuesday: 60-minute cross train + PT appt.
Now that the sun is going down earlier every day, by the time I get home from PT at nights after work, I don’t have much time for biking before the sun sets. Even if I had wanted to bike on Tuesday, my PT doc put me through so many lunges that my legs felt like Jello! I didn’t get in any cardio, but she sure gave my muscles a good workout.

Wednesday: 8 miles 35 minute run/walk (6r:2w ratio) rest
I had set my alarm to run in the morning, because I was going to be busy volunteering at a 5K race in the afternoon…only to wake up to the crack of thunder and flashing of lightning. Ah, well! My legs were realllllly sore from PT on Tuesday, so I happily went back to sleep. I didn’t have time to run before or after the 5K that night, so I had an unplanned rest day.

Thursday: 60-minute cross train + PT appt + 35 minute run/walk (6r:2w ratio)
Since I couldn’t run on Wednesday, I told my PT doc that I wanted to try running after my appointment. I was still quite sore from Tuesday (apparently I should do lunges more often), so the PT staff gave my hip some ultrasound action, some stretching, and only a few exercises to work on strength.

I headed out for my run at dusk. I felt really great, and did 5 rounds of 6-minute run + 2-minute walk recovery.

With warm-up and cool-down walking, I went for a total of 40 minutes & 3.45 miles.

Friday: rest + PT appt
I think introducing the running back into my routine is tougher on my legs and muscles than I thought it’d be, since they haven’t been pounding pavement for a few weeks. On Friday, I felt pretty tight and sore (in a good way—not painfully) so the PT staff gave me a good stretch out. I felt much better afterwards, though there were a few spots that just felt like they wouldn’t loosen, no matter what.

Saturday: 35 minute run/walk (8r:2w ratio)
I originally thought I could jump to a 10:1 ratio, but my PT doc set me straight on Friday when I asked her about it. 😉 So I did an 8-minute run + 2-minute walk recovery instead, building back up, slow & steady. I did push the time a bit, and did 5 rounds of 8-minutes running + 2-minutes walking.

Combined with my warm-up and cool-down walking, I had a total of 55 minutes and 4.81 miles.

I felt great the whole run/walk, and was just so happy to get some mileage in and feel good doing it. My hopes are continuing to raise about the marathon, but I also realize that ~5 miles is still a far cry from 26 miles…

This week’s schedule:

  • Sunday: rest
  • Monday: 5 miles 40 minute run/walk (10r:2w ratio)
  • Tuesday: 60-minute cross train + PT appt
  • Wednesday: 5 miles rest
  • Thursday: 5 miles 30 minute run/walk (10r:1w ratio)
  • Friday: rest
  • Saturday: 20 miles 10 miles (with some walking mixed in)

This week’s schedule is a little wacky, because I’m going to downtown Chicago Wednesday through Friday for a web design & development conference (woo – geeks unite!). I’m not sure when I’ll fit in some running around the city, but I’m planning on Thursday morning for now. I’ll start with 30 minutes, and if I feel good I might go up to 40 minutes.

Saturday, I’m hopeful to do a run/walk of 10 miles, but realistically I bet my PT will tell me that’s pushing it. But, I was hoping to do 10 miles this Saturday so I can jump up to 13 miles next Saturday…and the following weekend is the full marathon. If I can’t at least get to 13 miles before that, I think I might freak out!

What would you do if you were me—try for 10 miles, or be conservative and hold back still?

After taking so long off and just now introducing running back into my routine, I don’t want to dive in too quickly…but I think I need somewhat of an aggressive (but safe) approach if I want to complete the Chicago Marathon still. Eep.

Chicago Marathon Training, Week 13 Recap

Week 13 of the Chicago Marathon training has come and gone. There are only 4 weeks to go ‘til the big day, and I’m just happy I was able to run at all this week! Here’s the breakdown…

Sunday, September 8th: 60 minutes cross-train
Went on a bike ride.

Monday: rest • 15 min. bike ride
Matt said he wanted to bike, so I was all for it. Unfortunately, there were swarms of tiny flies all around our neighborhood. They were all over our shirts and shorts, pinging off our faces, and we couldn’t talk because every time we opened our mouths they somehow managed to find their way in. So gross. Obviously we decided to cut this ride short!

Tuesday: 5 miles • PT
Had a PT appointment, so did all my exercises and stretches for that. Got the green light to try some run/walking, if I didn’t have any pain before I started, so I decided Wednesday would be the day…

Wednesday: 5 miles • 50 min. bike ride + 24 min. run/walk
I had two friends who were going biking so I met up with them before attempting my run/walk. I figured it would help me warm up + loosen my legs, plus I wanted some extra cardio time since I knew I wouldn’t try to run/walk very far. The bike ride felt good, then I foam rolled my IT band and stretched really well. You can read my whole post about my run/walk success, but I ran 2 minutes/walked 1 minute for a total of 24 minutes, with no pain. YAY! Major spirit lifter.

Thursday: 5 miles PT
I was so stoked to go to the PT office and let them know about my run/walk success. They suggested I only run/walk every other day for now, so I did all my PT exercises and stretches and called it a day.

Friday: rest + PT
I had another PT appointment, this time with the doc I had originally wanted to see (she owns the clinic and is a runner herself). She suggested again that I try a run/walk method for the marathon, then gave me advice on how to build up my run/walk routine to eventually get back to running a mile at a time (you’ll see that plan in this week’s upcoming schedule at the bottom).

Since Wednesday’s 2:1 run/walk went well, she told me I could try a 4:2 run/walk on Saturday, but not to increase the time (25 minutes) unless I just added a 5-minute walk warm-up and 5-minute walk cool-down. Sold.

The PT doc massaged my IT band for a decent amount of time at the appointment, and it was a little achy all night afterwards. (This slight achiness or tenderness has continued through the weekend, so I hope it was just the massage breaking up the knots and stuff?)

Saturday: 19 miles • 3.48 miles (~2 running)
Last week I had said I’d hoped I could run 13 miles on this day, and obviously that wasn’t going to happen. I listened to my PT and started with the 5-minute walk to warm up, did some stretching, and then started my 4 minutes of running followed by 2 minutes of walking.

I think the toughest part was actually stopping to walk after the 4-minute running periods were up, especially when I was feeling really good. It was just so exhilarating to finally get moving again! It was also tough once when, after a run interval, I stopped to do my 2-minute walk and a passing runner tried to encourage me, “Don’t stop, you’re looking strong!” Thanks for the compliment & encouragement, runner, but it’s doctor’s orders!

On the plus side, the walk breaks did give nice opportunities for some pretty photo ops:

This sunrise is the best part of early morning runs!

This sunrise is the best part of early morning runs!

I ended up tacking on an extra 4:2 set, so my total run/walk time was 30 minutes instead of 25. Heh. Who’s surprised by the stubborn runner? I did feel pretty good most of the time, but at the end, the outside of my knee started to feel uncomfortable. It didn’t hurt, but it didn’t feel right, either. Then I had about a 10-minute walk back to my car, so I had a total of almost 45 minutes on my feet, and probably about 2 miles of running.

This week’s schedule:
I plan to continue the run/walks, hoping to slowly up the time I can go without pain… (The crossed out items are what would be on my running schedule if I were healthy.)

  • Sunday: rest
  • Monday: 5 miles 35 minute run/walk (4:2 ratio +10 min walk warm-up/cool-down)
  • Tuesday: 60-minute cross train + PT appt
  • Wednesday: 8 miles 35 minute run/walk (6:2 ratio, if Monday brings no pain +10 min walk warm-up/cool-down)
  • Thursday: 5 miles PT appt + 60 min. bike ride
  • Friday: rest + PT appt
  • Saturday: 12 miles 35 minute run/walk (10:1 ratio, if Wednesday brings no pain +10 min walk warm-up/cool-down)

With only four weeks to go until the Chicago Marathon, I know at this point I won’t be able to run the whole thing… But I’m hopeful that I can at least run a mile at a time, perhaps take a minute walk break between each mile, and still finish. It will just be a loooong marathon!

What do you think of run/walking? Is it something you normally do, or would try? How’s your training going?

I have to admit, stopping to walk in the middle of my running at first felt SOOO slow. I didn’t have the patience for it. But after a couple times, I realized that the short walk breaks make running MUCH easier! I would definitely recommend new runners, or people who’ve been out of training for a while, try run/walking. It’s much less torturous. 🙂

Run-Walk Success

You guys, I did it! I ran yesterday!

Without PAINNN.

Take that, ITBS – you pain in the ass knee.

At my PT appointment on Tuesday, I asked my doctor to get real with me about when I could start trying to run regularly again. It’s been a couple weeks since my last real run, and I’m only a month out from the Chicago Marathon now. Sure, I’ve been biking a lot, doing some PT exercises to build strength, and working on my core muscles…but to complete 26.2 miles by foot, I need to get some lots of miles in on these legs. Plain and simple.

If my knee wasn’t hurting me, she said, I could try it, but shouldn’t go overboard. And of course, if it started hurting, I promised myself I would stop immediately and walk, so I don’t make things worse.

Naturally, on Wednesday I decided it was time to try a little running. Even after some massaging, exercises and stretches on Tuesday night, I didn’t have any pain or tenderness around my knee or IT band. The other doctor in the clinic had suggested I look up a run/walk plan for the marathon (since I told her I was getting nervous about it), so I figured I might as well start out run/walking now.

It doesn't matter how slow you go, as long as you don't stop.

I started my workout with a 45-minute bike ride, since I knew I needed to put in some real cardio time, more than I would be able to run. Plus, I figured this would be a great way to get my legs warmed up and loose, which would help to stretch them before I ran.

After the biking, I did some foam rolling on my IT bands, and then stretched really well.

Then I was off, almost holding my breath with each step I took. Except, you know, I was running and all, so I had to breathe.

I decided I would do 2 minutes of running, followed by 1 minute of walking, and repeat that. I didn’t really have a set time or distance in my head, as I had no clue how my knee would feel, so I just trotted off without a plan, happy that it seemed the run would go okay as I took my first steps.

I continued my run/walking iterations until I got to about 12 minutes. Ecstatic that I wasn’t feeling any pain or anything at this point, I decided I better turn around and start the 12-minute jaunt back home, just in case. I didn’t want to push myself too far, right away.

By the time I got home, I was grinning like a freak, sweating like an even bigger freak, and restraining myself from jumping around. In total, I did 24 minutes of run-walking (16 minutes of running/8 minutes of walking). Not a ton, but, 16 minutes of running was longer than I could run this past Saturday, and without any aches or pains. I’ll take it.

We’ll see tonight at my next PT appointment if the little workout did anything adverse—I bet I will probably be a little tighter than the last several days, but hopefully the doc can continue to work out the tightness and knots in my IT band.

I’m taking this all as a reminder that when you start losing hope and wonder when things will turn around, you should never really worry—because before you know it, a little miracle just might happen. 🙂

Thanks for all encouraging responses to my last few posts & on Twitter, folks! And to my everyday friends and runner pals who’ve heard me yak on and on about all of this. You poor souls. I lova ya.