Competitor Group, Inc.

After the Marathon

by | Oct 08, 2012 |

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon was on Sunday, and I was happy to run a big lifetime best of 2:07:47; which (finally!) gives me a faster PR than my coach, Alberto Salazar! I hope to write more about the race itself in the near future, but since my thoughts have turned to fully recovering from this effort and getting ready for 2013, I’ll pass along some tips on the “after” to go along with my recent posts about the “before” and “during”.

One important lesson I’ve learned is that I need to let my body dictate my recovery and the return to training. But that doesn’t mean it’s a passive process. Far from it. What you do immediately following the race, and in subsequent days, can greatly speed up how soon you’ll be back out there on the roads.

Recovery is just as important as the other elements of training. You may have crossed the finish line, but that only means the race to nurse your tired body and aching muscles back to health has begun.

Keep Moving
It’s usually not possible to do a true cool down after a marathon, but I normally do my best to keep moving a bit to keep from getting too stiff.

As tempting as it is to sit, I know that any amount I can run or walk will be better for me in the long run (pun intended!). With media, drug testing and reuniting with family, not to mention the fatigue and pain from the race, it’s tempting to do nothing. But even some light dynamic stretches to get the blood flowing and start the tissue repair process will pay dividends in the days and weeks to come. This time I picked up a fairly gnarly blister under my big toe, so I wasn’t able to jog, but just walking from the finish line to the recovery tent, and within the hotel helped start the recovery process.

Ice, Ice, Ice!
The evening following the race, I try to take an ice bath to reduce inflammation and soreness and promote muscle recovery and healing. For tips on how to properly ice after a long run, watch this video by Competitor’s Sage Rountree.

Fuel Your Recovery
With the help of that Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI), I’ve not only figured out the fueling issues I had during marathons, but I’ve also learned valuable information about my recovery nutrition.
Here are the three components I keep in mind as part of my race recovery plan:
• Restore carbs to replace used glycogen (carbs stored in the liver) and store more glycogen
• To help repair muscle tissue, consume ~20 g of protein as soon as possible after the race (G Series Recover, which was available at the Chicago Marathon finish line, is a good option)
• Rehydrate with 16-24 oz of fluid with sodium for every pound of body weight lost during the race

Running might seem like a simple activity, but there is so much that goes into the preparation for, execution of, and recovery from a race such as a marathon. Everyone is different, and what works for me may not work for you; the key is to educate yourself, develop a plan, and then update and improve on that plan based on what did or did not work in each race. Hopefully you can take some of the tips I’ve given you and integrate them into your own strategy.