Back to Back Marathons: 10 Tips if You’re Pulling a Double
As a 4:30+ marathon runner, I have the belief that anyone can do a marathon with the proper training. But there still remains a sense of accomplishment in doing something most people don’t even consider attempting. Which is why I so desperately wanted to share this with my sister and wanted her to sign up and run a marathon. She was pretty hesitant but I convinced her to leave it up to fate and sign up for the NYC Marathon lottery. Fate decided and she didn’t get in. However, I did such a good job convincing her that she was ready to find another one and wanted me to join. How can you turn down the enthusiasm you created? So here I am, signed up for NYC (deferred from 2020) and St. Jude Marathon on December 3rd. Exactly four weeks a part. After having taken nearly three years off from training, I’ll be running two marathons in one month.
This idea of running two marathons isn’t new to the running community but I do know it isn’t exactly recommended. Which is why I turned to our wonderful physical therapists that have helped so many runners before me tackle the double. Again, not recommended by them, but they understand it happens.
Whether it was intentional or a random series of occurrences that ended up with two marathons on the docket this year, here are ten tips if you’re pulling a double this season:
1) CHOSE ONE – Decide in advance which of the two is the “main event” and which is “just for fun” or a “training run” and behave accordingly.
2) RECOVER – As with training, you can only work as hard as you are willing to recover, so make sure that time in between races is heavily focused on recovery – listen to your body, and use whatever tools you have at your disposal to speed recovery (I’m a big fan of spending lots of time in the compression sleeves and seeing your PT for some soft-tissue during this time!)
3) EAT WELL TO RECOVER – Protein is going to be your best friend here. And lots of it, all week long. Running to the point of exhaustion destroys the muscles, more than any body builder could do to their body. Carbs and fats, and well balanced diet in general needs to be A game, but ESPECIALLY protein.
4) CELEBRATE CAUTIOUSLY – Go easy on the post race beers. Body is extra vulnerable to illness, dehydration, poor sleep, etc. after a marathon. You want to avoid all of those things if you want your body to come back around quickly.
5) SLEEP – Plain and simple. Don’t skimp on sleep.
6) EASE INTO THE REST OF TRAINING – Take the week after the first marathon to recover well and get back to baseline – hydrate, fuel well, sleep, and start doing some light activation exercises in the few days after the race. At the middle or end of the week, start to add in some short easy spins on the bike to get the legs moving again but with less load.
7) SLOWLY BUILD BACK – Make sure to take at least one full week off from running. Do cross training or biking or something else. Then one week of easy running before getting back to harder efforts or the next race. Keep runs short and easy on the first couple of runs back, assess how everything is feeling, and address any areas that feel tight or sore with foam rolling and light strength work.
8) TREAD LIGHTLY – It’s possible that you might feel okay right after the race. You’re riding that endorphin high and you feel like you’re on top of the world. Maybe you trick yourself into thinking you’re fully recovered by the next day. But “delayed onset muscle soreness,” commonly referred to as DOMS, is a real thing and can really set you back if you’re not careful. Try to wait a full week or more before doing anything more than a light activity. You just did a 26.2 mile tempo run which will count towards your training if you rest properly.
9) REST – I don’t think we can say this enough but make sure you rest! Even if your body feels totally recovered, your HEART needs to recover which is much harder because our heart muscle doesn’t get sore in the same way as, say, our legs so it’s important to be extra cautious there.
10) KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING – Going for walks, normatec compression sleeves, soft tissue work, light cross training, etc. These are all things that move the body, flush out the blood, and ultimately speed up recovery.
Don’t forget, time off doesn’t necessarily mean losing fitness. You won’t need any “big” long runs anymore because we already know you can run a marathon, you likely just finished one!
If you have two marathons scheduled, make sure to come see us for a myofascial massage, normatec compressions sleeves, or physical therapy to get back to training sooner!
I ran both and had an amazing second marathon with a 16 minute PR! I tried to take as much advice from above as I could. Starting with choosing one. While I ideally wanted NYC to be my A race, we all know now that the weather had a very different plan so I went with just finishing that one. It was a very rough day and I could feel the lingering effects on my cardio health longer than I had with any other marathon. So maybe I went a little harder than I should have. I took an entire seven days off of running and sat in the compression sleeves a couple days that week after as well as got a light myofascial massage at FLPT to work out my hamstrings and quads. My first run was 5 miles, just to get the legs moving. It did not feel good. I did a couple speed workouts as well as a 14 mile and 10 mile long run. Nothing special, just sort of repeated the taper. I slept, I ate well, whenever something felt too hard I eased off. I really tried to lean into the rest & recovery. I slept a lot, really.
Finally the second race came and weather was perfect. Mildly sunny in the high 50s. Couldn’t have asked for better weather which I did feel like I deserved after New York. The race went better than I could have imagined and I was so excited to cross the line with a major PR. Overall, I don’t recommend doing two races so close together. But it was nice to be able to have a back up race after my first one went so poorly and I could see what I was actually capable this training cycle. Oh, and my sister crushed it, while not fully loving it but still has hopes of getting into the NYC lottery one day.