It’s now been 2.5 weeks since the Boston Marathon and I’m struggling with something that many distance runners struggle with: how to get the rest/stress cycle just right.
Recovery days are important throughout a training cycle. Says Runner’s World, recovery days make your training count because your body makes fitness gains while you’re at rest. If you don’t give your body the chance to rebuild, you can’t maximize these gains.
My rest/stress cycle is easy to manage during my training leading into a marathon. I run 6 days per week. On the seventh day I rest (just like the universe intends). Two of my 6 days are easy slow recovery runs. These easy recovery runs come the day after my track workouts.
I am now in recovery mode post-marathon and there are more rest and stress variables to consider. Obviously, your joints and muscles take a beating over 42.2km.
Research shares with us that the muscle damage from running a marathon can last up to two weeks. The research also indicates that soreness (or the lack thereof) is not a good indicator of muscular healing. In other words, just because you aren’t sore anymore doesn’t mean that you are fully healed. This is the danger for marathon runners: Post-marathon muscular soreness fades after a few days but microscopic damage within the muscle cells remains. If you return to full training too soon–running more and faster than the tissues are ready for–you risk delaying full recovery and the chance to get ready for your next goal. To read more about this in Running Times, click here
Here’s the thing. My next goal is really big. Like 430 km big.
When I established Team Love4Gambia, I signed up for the full marathon. Most marathoners run 2 marathons a year: a spring and a fall marathon. Most do not run 2 marathons in 5 weeks. As team captain and girl who would be running across an African country, I felt like “people” would want and expect me to run the full marathon. I knew that I wouldn’t be at my best just 5 weeks after the Boston Marathon so I enlisted my 2 long run partners, McKim & Liam to run it with me. And I kept this plan a secret from my coach- likely the biggest indicator that this was not a super or smart plan.
So I run the Boston Marathon and arrive home and am aware that I need to disclose this plan to my coach. So I tell him.
He responds, “You mean you are doing a relay?”
I say, “No….”
And then he said, “WHAT!?”
Coach never tells anyone what to do in terms of running goals. But he counsels me to think about my long term running. To think about how I will be in Africa in 8 weeks. And about how I will be in Africa 5 weeks after the Blue Nose, with 125km weeks staring at me. And a non-negotiable end date on the Gambian shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
I explain that I feel like “people” expect me to run the full marathon. He demands to know who these people are. I say “the people who have donated money.” He says that they will understand. Several of my running friends, people who’s opinion I hold in high regard, remind me that these people have donated money for me to run across The Gambia. Not to run across the MacDonald Bridge in the Blue Nose Full Marathon.
I chat with my first coach Matt who reminds me that recovery is as important as the stress of running in the training equation. He doesn’t think it’s fair to ask my body to perform at the high level and for the duration that Boston, Blue Nose and the African run demand. Like Cliff, he says to treat the body well and to give myself every opportunity to be healthy and recovered as I begin my Gambia run. So in short, coaches say that it’s not worth the risk to race the Blue Nose Full Marathon.
After careful consideration, I will be dropping out of the full marathon to do either the 5 or 10k race. I’ll chose based on whichever lets me spend the most time at the finish line. The 10k begins at 9:10am and the 5k at 9:50am so looks like the 10k will be best.
Ultimately, I need to be smart and do everything that I can to be healthy on July 7 when I begin to run in The Gambia. Certainly I have mixed feelings about this. I really loved the idea of being out there with my guys McKim and Liam during the full marathon and I’m sad that this can’t happen. But this decision brings a new joyful opportunity- the chance to see many of the 100 runners and walkers on my team finish their races.
I will get to spend a really fun day at the finish line, cheering runners home and this will be awesome. I love to cheer. My mother and father are walking their first ever road races and I’ll get to see them. My baby sis is doing her first 10k and I’ll get to see her. I have 11 aunts, uncles and cousins from Charlottetown running and walking and I should get to high-five them all on Brunswick Street. I have 22 super high school students running and I’ll get to cheer them to the finish- especially the 13 girls completing their first ever 5k races.
Many of my running friends, incredible people who have been by my side over my years running and especially over the last months of my Love4Gambia campaign, are running for me and for Gambia.
They are all making a difference, one kilometer at a time.
My cowbell is ready to salute them.
I’ve already made my recovery plan post 430km running expedition. It’ll look like 7 days of this: