In the fall of 2011, I ran a 30 miler, the NYC Marathon, and the Knickerbocker 60k within a 5 week window. I showed up to the start line of each race feeling rested, energized, and ready to run.
- 30 mile training run: (8:34 pace)
- NYC Marathon: 3:46:49 (8:40 pace) including a 15 min negative split and 8:01 pace for second half – won the Foot Locker 5 Borough Challenge
- Knickerbocker 60k: 5:41:28 (9:10 pace) – 8th place female
From what I’ve seen, it seems like running back to back marathons in a short period of time (~2 weeks) is becoming more and more popular. Here are some of the things I did to ensure I was ready for each:
Let your body dictate when to run again. There is no golden window for when you should return to running, post-marathon. There are so many outside variables that go into how long your body needs to recover – How hard did you run? Was the course hilly? How your body is reacting to the 26.2 miles?
I found that I needed almost no time to recover from the 30 miler. Why? It was a long, slow run, not a race. I ran a steady pace (8:34) for the whole 30 miles and didn’t push myself like I would in a race. I actually felt okay enough to run a bit that afternoon during a photo/film shoot for the NYC Marathon this is me a few hours after the 30 miler).
I took two full days off from the 30 miler and returned with a easy, slow 5 miler (8:45 pace). After the NYC Marathon, I needed four days off – I pushed myself harder and the course was hillier than what I ran on for the 30 miler (totally flat).
Don’t circle a date on the calendar for your first run post-marathon. Listen to your body. Have no expectations when you wake up each day. See how you feel. Pay attention to your body and how sore you feel.
Drink, Drink, Drink. Running a marathon dehydrates you more than you realize. During my 60k, I lost 7 pounds of water – AND I was running with a camelbak and stopping at every water point. I felt fine and didn’t feel dehydrated post-race but there is no way that I wasn’t with how much sweat came out of my body. It takes more than a day or two for your body to recover from the loss of sweat/fluid. This can also be hard because if you are like me, you often lose your appetite for days after a hard race. Ensuring you are drinking extra water and fluids is SO important.
First week is recovery, second week is taper. Between each of the races, I didn’t run more than 7 miles at a time. It took about a week to fully recover from each race and I immediately began a modified taper for the next. What did this mean for me? After a few days off, I did a couple of 4-6 milers at recovery pace (8:45-9:00). At the one week mark, I did a 7 miler at an easy pace (8:30). And the following week (taper) was filled with mostly 3-6 milers at an easy pace (8:30) with two rest days.
Slow and Steady. During each recovery/taper window, almost every run was slow and relaxed. I didn’t run anything close to my race pace (with the exception of one or two runs). Your fitness level will not disappear in those weeks – focus on recovery and resting rather than trying to improve your pace.
Do some sort of modified speedwork / tempo run in the taper week. It may go against common practice, but I found that it helped loosen up my legs in preparation for the upcoming race. I didn’t do a full speed workout – just a few 1/4 and 1/2 mile repeats (around race pace) to stretch out my legs and get my heart rate up.
One target race. It’s a lot on your body to expect to go full out for both races. I’d recommend selecting one race to focus on as your target race and using the other race(s) as training or for fun. My target race was the NYC Marathon – participating in the Foot Locker 5 Borough Challenge was the experience of a lifetime for me and I wanted to ensure that it was my focus.