Marathon recovery: Did I race again too soon?

Marathon experts and running gurus trumpet the value of post-race resting. Lots of them urge runners to take time off, perhaps calling for one day of rest for every mile (or five miles) they ran in the big race. Some advocate reverse tapering, with athletes gradually increasing their distances (and speeding up their paces again). Others simply suggest easing up a bit for a while and listening to one’s own body.

Toss MS into the mix, and well ... I probably should heed that advice better.  But sometimes it's worth the risk.


I kind of got off-track recently, while recovering from the Chicago Marathon, which took place nearly three weeks ago.

My intentions were good. I skipped my morning-after weight training class. I eased up on my training mileage for the following week or two.

Then I headed to Washington, DC, with friends.

I’d signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon 10K, rather than the full 26.2, acknowledging that my body still needed some recovery time from the Chicago race. 

But things didn’t exactly go that way. And I’m honestly glad they didn’t.

Marine Corps race day arrived, along with crazy-heavy rains and strong winds that overflowed puddles and the Potomac River.  Runners slogged through ankle-deep (and higher) waters to follow the race course. It was a mess. Then the sun came out, bringing system-shocking humidity.

Runners were dropping like flies. Skilled, well-trained, fit runners climbed (or were loaded) into rescue vehicles.

Two friends and I completed the 10K and then checked in electronically on two others, who were slugging their way through their first-ever full marathon. One was tired and hurting around the midway point. She’d come back from major surgery (with complications), but she wouldn’t let any of that stop her from doing the marathon.

We 10Kers jogged to the nearest subway stop and made our way to that friend’s next mile marker on the marathon course. Once we spotted her, we tucked our 10K finishers’ medals into our shirts (to keep them from beating our chests) and fell into step with her to offer some encouragement for a mile or two.

The other back-of-packers at that point didn’t seem to mind our company, either.

We shared our goos and pickle juice and other snacks (along with shoulder taps and words of encouragement) with total strangers, as we all trudged along together. I handed one lady a tiny snack bag, with just 4-5 pretzels left in it, and she actually hugged me.

We made it to the final bridge, a dreaded gauntlet, not long before many later runners were swept off the course into buses. We outran the final pickup bus and passed the final turn-off, sharing a cheering roar with fatigued runners all around us.

But we didn’t stop there.

We actually ran almost a half marathon, accompanying our intrepid friend all the way to the start of the marathon finish line chute, before veering off to let her conquer the final battle alone and receive her well-earned finisher’s medal.

Our two marathon-entry friends completed their first 26.2 races. The other three of us totaled about 19 miles, between the two races, although only 6.2 officially counted.

All in all, the day was worthy of true celebration.

Today I’m a little tired. That was more than I ought to have done, so soon after my own full marathon in Chicago. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. The glow on our friend’s face, as she beat the marathon dragon at his own game, was well worth it.

My next race is just under two weeks out. It’s a 10K. And I promise I will leave it at that.

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Long runs: Shared-track slowdowns don't have to be let-downs

OK, I goofed. When I planned my latest double-digit training run, I didn’t double-check what else might be going on along the way. I just geared up and went.


 I’d picked a lovely trail that winds around a little lake in a nearby forest preserve. Each lap is about 2.5 miles, so I had to do several loops to make my run ration for the day. That sounded simple enough, right?

I picked out my playlist and loaded my car with salty/healthy run snacks and a cooler of chilled water. My whiz-bang plan was to have these ready and accessible throughout my whole training trip, as that’s one of the hardest things about a non-supported teens-to-30-mile run.

About an hour into this plan, I saw a van pull up to one of the park shelters. A few ladies climbed out and began setting cases of water and boxes of bananas on a picnic table. Next, they opened a box of race bibs. 


By the time I looped around again, several cars were pulling into that parking lot. Strollers were unfolding, and folks were congregating ON THE PATHWAY.

“Excuse me,” I said to one mom, as I stepped onto the wet grass to pass. No response.

“What time does the race start?” I asked another, as she backed into me.

I sighed, adjusted my earbud, and continued on my way.

By the next lap, the entire trail was blocked, as the small crowd lined up to start their 5K. There were runners, wheeled teams, jog strollers, and baby buggies. I headed for the nearby road to avoid the pack. Then I traversed the grass again to regain my place on the path.

The next time around, I encountered the race leaders. The front-runner, a mom with a tiny baby and a toddler in a jogging stroller, was flying. She called out a quick greeting before zipping by.

By now, I was halfway through my long run and sort of asleep at the wheel. I swigged my water and kept going.

Rounding a bend, I saw the rest of the race pack, making their way along the walkway that edged the baseball field.

That’s when I became inspired.

Although my knees and foot arches and other stuff already hurt, I saw children, young people, and adults giving it all they had. This wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill 5K.

  • I saw a pair of runners pushing an adult man in a racing wheelchair. His grin was miles wide.
  • I saw a dad with a maybe-eight-year-old boy on his shoulders. The child had braces on both legs.
  • I saw a mom coaxing her reluctant runner daughter to keep going. The girl looked to be about six or seven.
  • I saw a mom and dad helping their teen daughter along, each placing an arm under one of her shoulders, as she stumbled on the way.
  • I saw a young man with crutches, inching his way along the path.

I found myself calling out to these already-motivated folks.

 “Way to go!”

“You’ve got this!”

 “Great job!”

“All right!”

After about 90 minutes, this special 5K was over. The van had been loaded. And the picnic shelter was empty.

My heart was racing from my own run. But it was a little fuller than it had been when I set out that morning.

Because sometimes an interruption is a pick-me-up, rather than a let-down.

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Marathon training: Sometimes it’s OK to be a turtle

Color me green, and call me a turtle, if you must. It wasn’t pretty, but my 20-mile marathon prep run is done.

Sometimes I’m slow … but I still go ... even when I fail to sprout wings and mostly crawl.

Kermit was right: “It isn’t easy being green.”

OK, before the “Kermit is a frog, not a turtle” comments begin piling up, let me clarify that. I get it. But he’s definitely green ... like a turtle.

I finished my 20-mile marathon training run feeling a little green too – in all sorts of ways.

  • The first hour was absolute hell. I didn’t eat any green apples beforehand, but I did experience a quick-step that had little to do with my running pace. (Let’s just say I was relieved that I picked a running route with open park facilities in operation.)
  • I was green with envy that other runners can do the whole thing in just two or three hours. (I still kind of am.)
  • I was a little green around the gills (OK, there’s another mixed metaphor. I know turtles don’t have gills. Neither do frogs, for that matter.)
  • I’m looking down the pike at my second full marathon (in three weeks), so I am still a little green at the whole marathon thing.
  • And I’m a little short on green, right about now. But that’s another matter altogether.
  • It’s almost go-time, so let’s give it the green light anyway.

Here’s the basic truth:

Yes, the 20-mile marathon training run is almost always ugly. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

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Sometimes it really is that simple.

On the bright side, although I am not pleased with the time it took me to complete this lengthy jaunt, I still somehow managed to finish comfortably (although not exactly comfortable) within the upcoming marathon’s specified cut-off time. So there’s that.

Let’s hope I can hop along a whole lot faster on race day.

And let the pre-marathon tapering begin!

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