Sunday, October 23, 2016

My Back to Back Marathons Experience

At the end of September, I ran the Grand Forks Marathon, my goal race for the end of 2016. Then two weeks later I toed the line of the Blue Ox Marathon.

Running marathons two weeks apart sounded crazy to me at first (I'm no ultra-runner). Borderline a bad decision. But I was too curious to pass it up.

I asked around the dailymile running community and Google'd it (of course). Turns out, back to back marathons aren't a new concept and the trend seems to be growing in popularity. Some recommended using one race as a "training run" and one as a "race". Others found they were able to race both and ran even faster in the second.

Okay, sounds good. I'm doing it!

How could this sound like a "good" idea? Because marathon training, as fun as it is, is still the hard "work". It's the time commitment, early mornings, tired body and a whole lot of self-discipline. Race Day itself is much more exciting and the discomfort is very temporary.

Especially in these childbearing years, fitting in more races during an "on" year is ideal. I squeezed in three full marathons this year because, Lord-willing, we want to grow our family again soon. That means three marathons this year and possibly no marathons 'til who knows when. I know I will be back, I'm just not in a hurry. This season is a short and precious one!

Photo provided by the Grand Forks Marathon

My Back to Back Marathon Experience

After reading and receiving advice from other runners, here are five points that worked for me and made these back to back's a GOOD experience:

1. Foam-Roll, Easy Run, Rest, Repeat.

One key principle that all of the back to back advice shared was RECOVERY. With only two weeks between the marathons, your body cannot gain any more fitness. I ran a few easy runs, super low mileage, stretched and foam rolled. I tried to stay off my feet more than usual, or at least I did my best with two toddlers.

2. Re-Fuel and Re-Hydrate Well

Immediately after running a marathon, I can't hardly eat anything. Only a day later and I will eat everything in sight! I did my best to eat quality foods — like healthy re-carb-loading for the next race — and I drank water like crazy to make up for all I lost in the first race. Lots of water!

3. See What The Day Brings

While I raced the first marathon all-out (because I didn't know there would be a second), I had a tentative plan for the second marathon: Run the first 13 miles at race pace and adjust from there. Would my legs stop working or would my energy tank? I wanted to stay open to the idea of slowing down and running a more leisurely pace for the last half of the race, if necessary.

4. Think the Best

One of my worries about running another race was ending on a bad note. The Grand Forks Marathon went well and I didn't want to end the year with a DNF or a death march. I took into account the fact that I had just run a marathon but I didn't dwell on it. Keeping a positive attitude and remaining thankful for this opportunity was key. Each stride, each run, each race is a gift from God and I remind myself of that often.

5. Account for a Harder "Wall"

Mile 20 seems to be my "wall" in most marathons — So close, but yet SO FAR! I anticipated the second marathon's wall to be even worse than in my first marathon and ran the first 13 miles to compensate for that. The Blue Ox is a more challenging course with hills, especially from mile 20 on, and the extra time in the bank from the earlier miles helped to keep me on track for a good finish.

Photo provided by the Blue Ox Marathon.

So what happened? The back to back marathons went AWESOME! I was more fatigued in the second marathon, especially that final 20, but I was able to run faster because of the cool weather and possibly some training benefits from the earlier marathon. Whatever happened, it worked well!

I recover from marathons relatively quickly and that made this experience a great one. In case you didn't catch my recaps of the Grand Forks Marathon and Blue Ox Marathon, I actually ran almost 3 minutes faster in the second race.

Racing both races well is possible and I do hope to run back to back marathon again in the future! It's like my favorite 2-for-1 deal :)

My Workout #WeeklyWrap:


MON: Active recovery.
TUES: 3.5 mi double stroller run. Watchless easy run with the kids while we hunted for pretty Fall leaves.
WED: Off.
THURS: 4.07 mi double stroller run, 00:38 @ 09:15 pace. A grocery run. Literally.
FRI: Yoga for Runners, 20 minutes. I finally found free Yoga videos that I really enjoy! Ekhart Yoga has a great variety of videos to choose from.
SAT: The hubby and I got away for a marriage seminar and then I was off to a 30th birthday party for my best friend that night. We did a scavenger hunt that night that included some random running :)
SUN: Yoga for Runners, 20 minutes, and neck/shoulder stretches, 5 minutes.

Have you ran back to back races before?
Ultrarunners, what is the most amount of miles you have ran in one race?

Michelle (aka NYC Running Mama) wrote "How to Run Back to Back Marathons" in 2012 and her post helped me immensely in preparing for this first back to back attempt.

 Linking up with Holly and Tricia's Weekly Wrap Up.

9 comments:

  1. Good for you! I don't know if I'd do it, but I know a lot of people who have run back to back marathons! Now take some time off to recover....

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  2. WoW! I have to admit, this sounds SOOO intriguing! I have never done back-to-back marathons (yet),but I have done many other events of shorter distances (usually involving a half marathon in the mix). I'm not very competitive and am paranoid of injury, so I usually don't go all-out for these (and, I usually have several other races on the calendar, so I don't want to risk jeopardizing other races). I have done two ultra's, both were timed events where you ran as many 1-mile laps as possible in the allotted time (one was a 6-hour overnight event, the other was a 12-hour overnighter). The furthest I went was 38 laps (in the 12-hour), for almost 37 total miles....but I had a recent Plantar Fasciitis scare and some hammy/glute pain, so I had to take it easy and and allow myself to walk periodically. But, it was a huge accomplishment to be in almost constant motion for 12 hours!

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  3. Wow! I am super impressed! I've been training for my first marathon all summer and I'm currently in taper mode, but I can't imagine running two marathons so close together. I'll be happy just to finish my marathon in 2 weeks! LoL

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  4. Congrats on your back to back marathons! I did that when I ran the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge in 2013. Luckily it was 13 days apart. And I did run Big Sur about 6 mins faster. I think your body just acclimates to it. I even ran a local marathon that Saturday after running Big Sur on Sunday.

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  5. Thanks for sharing these great tips on running back to back marathons! They're also helpful for racing other long distances close together. Congrats again on the win!

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  6. I'm glad your recovery is going well and it was interesting to read about your back to back marathons! You did a great job with both of them and it's good to know that there are resources out there to read about how to recover and prepare in between. Plus a run to find leaves and buy groceries sounds like a good way to recover and have fun too!

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  7. Very impressive, Amy. That is an awesome pic of you at Blue Ox with the golden trees. After just finishing a marathon, I already feel ready to tackle another. Part of me thinks sooner would be better -- but it won't be 2 weeks. LOL. I'm glad they both went so well for you! Thanks for linking.

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  8. I had not thought of it that way but your right when you say your not going to lose your fitness in two weeks so no need to try to get in heavy miles. You my friend did it right and it worked out well for you!

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  9. way to go! i'm so impressed! and thank you for linking to the yoga, i've been upping my mileage and i'm so creaky and achy, i have been looking for a good yoga for runners source!

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