I have screwed up at least two marathon recovery periods. After my first marathon, I took three days off and then got right back to it. (Naive.) After my sixth marathon, I took one week off and then played soccer. (Just dumb.) After the former I quickly felt burned out. After the latter I ended up nursing a knee injury for almost two months. The races between don’t stand out, so we’ll assume I did something right. After last week’s marathon, things felt different but I was ready to keep recovery the same.
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Two weeks before MCM, we went my best friend’s wedding in Stellenbosch, South Africa. I didn’t talk about running much, because there wasn’t much running done. I didn’t think about the race much, because it was going to come and go either way. Someone asked me about the upcoming marathon and “how” I trained, and how hard marathons must be. She mentioned her disinterest in running 26.2 miles, but she does run about six to nine miles a few times a week. I wanted that. That sounds great. That sounds like a nice routine I could, and would want to maintain. That sounds like a great base, should I ever decide to jump back in a marathon training cycle. Or a nice half-marathon. Or a 10K! Anything.
That dream-routine got stuck in my head. It sounded like such a lovely way to stay in a relationship with running, post-marathon.
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I entered the taper and was definitely not going to run much, certainly not six or nine miles on any given day. I got to race day and thought how 26.2 miles is SO MUCH FARTHER than six to nine miles. But, I reasoned, I’ll do it today and then not again for a long, LONG time. Maybe not ever. We’ll see, we’ll see…
As I stand at the starting line, I fiercely wish for the finish. Actually, I wish for the shower I know I’ll need and the brunch table filled with friends I can’t wait to see. (And this time, I wished our pup could have run with me!) I think about the week ahead, how lazy I’ll be and how great it will feel. I think about all the sleep I’ll get, and how I won’t run for at least seven full days. Glorious!
Then, by the time I do reach the Finish (and then a shower before brunch), I feel a fierce nostalgia for those first few miles. I wish for my training back, because I love how it gives me some structural comfort and a lot of satisfaction. I at least want the option to run, if for any reason, I want to wake up and go. But because I’ve screwed this up twice, I promise myself I’ll do it right. I’ll be smart. I’ll wait it out!
I woke up on Monday morning—after running (and walking) 26.2 miles for the eighth time—without a hint of soreness. Nothing. Not even a slight tightness in my calves, not a ghost of PF, not a cringe when I sat down to pee. No hesitation in going down a few stairs. No marathon-shuffle as I walked the pup around our neighborhood. And a part of me was a little like, WTF?
But because I’ve screwed this up twice, I waited. The pup and I got in a few slow steps, because she generally does not walk in a straight line. I got a sports massage, and for the first time EVER in my life, the masseuse said my muscles didn’t feel bad at all. (But usually there’s a comment, or twelve, about how tight everything is.) I still woke up early, because we have a puppy. I still held back, because I wanted to avoid the assumption that soreness is what dictates recovery. So, we wait.
I ran on Friday. That was NOT a full seven days after MCM, as promised, but by that point I didn’t care. I joined Sam for an easy five miles. Then on Saturday I joined Katie, Allison, and Ida for an easy four-point-something miles. Then today I almost ran with Kate, but I decided to reign it in, and walk it out instead.
I keep thinking that if I want those six-to-nine miles a few days a week, I have to wait. I don’t get to have it right now. I don’t get to tell my legs to buck up and power on, immediately! I get to look at the long run—the one I hope to be doing in one, ten, or twenty years—and think, it will only be there if I’m patient. It will only be there if I take recovery seriously. So for now, we keep on waiting.