The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Pepper’s Marathon Recovery Tips

Celebration ice cream with a great friend is ALWAYS good for marathon recovery!

Marathon recovery? You want me to talk about marathon recovery? It’s kinda funny because for the first time in a long time I am not feeling very recovered from my own marathon efforts. In the past I have bounced back relatively quickly barring any post race injuries, but for whatever reason this Boston has left me feeling a bit rundown and mentally tapped. Hopefully I will turn that around here in the next few weeks. In the mean time here are some of my experiences with marathon recovery, the good, the bad, and the ugly!

The Good! Post-Boston 2010.

I ran Boston in 2010 and came short of my sub 3 goal but ran my second fastest marathon at the time in 3:06:30. I came away from this race disappointed and fired up to run well at the Cleveland 10K five weeks later. I took the day off after the race and did some easy running and cycling that week. Followed that up with one week of easy runs and then it was back into training 3 weeks later. Links to the training are below! For those that want the dish, it went well, I was fired up and 5 weeks later I ran a 10km PR smashing my coaches goal. I went on to have arguably the best year in my running so far. Given that experience I’d say for me, it was safe to do some easy runs marathon week to actively recover, one more easy week, and then ease back into real training.

Marathon Week and Recovery Week

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

With proper recovery you can make a huge breakthrough a few weeks post-'thon!

The Bad! Post-Columbus 2010.

I will readily admit I am not always the brightest racer or trainer. My coach does his best to keep me in check but sometimes I do my own unwise things. After running a kick ass 2:49:53 at the Columbus marathon in the fall of 2010 I decided I would attempt to run at the Youngstown Peace Race 10k just 6 days later. I promised myself I wouldn’t run it very hard, but my competitive nature got the best of me and I ran hard and probably delayed my recovery significantly, possibly even leading to some of my early 2011 training woes which led to my next recovery story, which gets uglier, much uglier. On top of the unwise racing we decided to jump back into training in order to race the Detroit turkey trot. In retrospect it would have been much better to take it easy and just run the TT for fun so I was fresher for Boston 2011 training.

ย Marathon Recovery weeks 1 and 2

Recovery week 3

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Was this second place TT hardware worth it? NO!

The Ugly! Post-Boston 2011.

In 2011 after a heartbreaking performance at Boston I unwisely decided I was going to attempt to race Cleveland and try to OTQ just a few weeks later. Hind sight is 20/20. At the time it seemed so clear, I had felt so fantastic at the Cleveland 10k the year before and had wished I ran the full. But not every year is the same and not every recovery is the same. I ran Boston on antibiotics, I had a cold that I couldn’t shake for weeks, and I felt like absolute crap on most of my runs post Boston. Add to that an ill timed dance central injury (yes I gave myself tendonitis the week before Cleveland by playing Dance Central for 2 hours) and you get a recipe for disaster.

Marathon Recovery

Week 1 (Seriously I am cringing looking at this now, 6 ice baths and 65 miles!!!)

Week 2

Week 3 was no running and then stupidly lining up and attempting to run Cleveland, dropping at the half having given myself Plantar Fasciitis that I am still dealing with a year later.

If you need 6 of these in 1 week you're not doing it right. Image via inthecave.com

Now. Hopefully closer to good than ugly! Post-Boston 2012.

I started off smartly and took one week off running after Boston this year. I think I needed the mental and physical break this time around, but I think I should have done a bit more active recovering. I should have gotten in the pool, rode the bike, done some yoga, and made sure not to get out of the habit of training. Having no real goals on tap right now isn’t helping with the motivation either. The big time off worked for me after Philly last year, but I was injured then. This time around I think a more active recovery approach would have worked better. Here’s hoping I can turn this recovery around and get motivated to get back at it in the best way possible!

My Tips!

1) The reverse taper: I think this is a great method of marathon recovery and it has worked well for me in the past. The week after the marathon try to run easy and only the total mileage you ran the week of the marathon before the race. Second week what you did two weeks before, etc.

2) Active recovery! Get in the pool, go for a walk, do some easy jogging. If you raced the marathon you did some micro-damage to your muscles and they need to heal. A little light movement will help with recovery!

3) Listen to your body! This should be a no brainer, but sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the next goal and prolong your recovery and re-entrance to training and racing by being stubborn. If after a week of getting back into training things aren’t feeling normal give yourself a break and a few more days off.

4) Set new, yet flexible goals for post marathon. Avoiding post marathon blues is tough! And it is a delicate balance, but having a goal 6-8 weeks out from the marathon is a great way to get refocused and get back into the training routine in a positive manner!

For more great recovery tips check out Camille Herron’s recent post on the subject.

How about you Salty Readers? Have any marathon recovery tales (bad and good) to share?

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A gal on a mission to save Cuyahoga County streams one storm water facility at a time. An ex runner of many facets including marathons, pacing, ultras and more. Chronic left side issues have me cycling more than running these days but I'm attempting to get back to my running roots.

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6 comments

  1. Thanks for writing on this topic:). This will be me in a little over a week. I am not looking forward to the “recovery” phase. Running is such a huge part of my life, that it will be tough to take a full week off. I plan to wait and see how I run the Cleveland Marathon, and how I feel after, to determine what I will do the following week. I will most likely take a full week of off running and will try to get into a pool or bike somewhere. I have heard and read about the reverse taper and will definitely try that the second week into recovery if I can’t get running the first week after. I have a 5K planned two weeks after the marathon, so just hoping I will be able to run somewhat of a respectable time.

  2. One more quick question for you Pepper….you say in this blog that you have been dealing with Plantar Fascitis. I too, have been dealing with this annoyance. I currently have custom made orthotics, do all the exercises and stretches as I should, etc., etc., etc. It really didn’t start bothering me until about two months ago. My training has been fine and has not in any way hindered it. I can run without pain, but there are times when it makes it’s itself know and I am bothered by it. I do ice my foot religiously after all long runs. I guess I am just worried about the damage that can possibly be done with the marathon. I went 22 miles three weeks ago and it was fine that day and the day after. But, race day effort is a lot different. What have you been doing, or how have you been dealing with it (or dealt)?

  3. Good luck with Cleveland Michelle! I really feel as long as your training leading up to the marathon went well and as long as you don’t do any damage other than the normal aches and pains of going over 2 hours that you can recover relatively quickly form the marathon. In the past I have sworn that the marathon itself was a huge fitness boost and several times have run 5k or 10k PRs a few weeks later.

    For me the PF seems to be related to a combo of speed/tight calves and a pinched sciatica from something irritated on my lower left side (hip/glute/lower back). It comes and goes and other than being a bit tender after Philly and Boston it is no worse than it had been. Note that for both of these I ran in trainers rather than racing flats. Cleveland last year I had on flats and I think the combo of taking a week off and then hammering in flats was just too much given my lackluster recovery.

  4. Ps. if you can be patient I am sure to get up a PF post soon! It is a pesky injury that many runners deal with and there doesn’t seem to be one good answer. And it is commonly misdiagnosed and actually sometimes a different injury!

  5. Oooh – this is very timely for me too. It is interesting how different our recovery and mindset can be post-marathon. I am feeling a bit of fire in my belly and am considering a half in 2 weeks (3 weeks out). Of course I haven’t run much at all this week, but am already plotting next week.