Posted by: Joe English | October 25, 2011

Training — How Long Should I Wait Until I Can Try Again?

running-advice-bugWe have another version of a common question this week. Often people want to know when they can run a second marathon after they’ve hit the wall and fully depleted themselves. Crystal writes in asking the question in a different way- when an injury crops up early in the marathon, when can you take another swing at it. Here’s Crystal’s question:

“I just ran my first marathon. Was projecting 4:30 and was on pace to do so when my knee blew out (likely ITBS) and I had to limp/walk the second half and finished in a horrible 5:30. I know I can do better and want to do another marathon in 2 months from the first. If I take 2 weeks to heal and start training again, do you think another marathon is feasible? I know the general advice esp. for newbies is not to pack too many marathons into a short period of time, but given my knee issue, I couldn’t run for half the marathon and I actually don’t feel that spent. Any advice would be much appreciated!”

First, let’s review the differences between this question and the one that I posed above. In the more typical case, the runner has run to the point of fatigue and usually has hit the proverbial wall in their race. The desire then is to get back out there and try again. In those cases, the answer has to do with the length of the recovery from that first race. In most cases, runners recover within 2-6 weeks from a marathon, but that number is highly dependent upon how deeply the runner tapped into their reserves — or exceeded them. In other words, the bigger the bonk, the longer the recovery. In some cases it can take months to recover fully from a marathon in which the runner has pushed themselves far beyond their limits, for example in a case where the runner suffered severe dehydration or heat illness. The mental damage can take even longer to heal from incidents like these.

But let’s take a look at Crystal’s situation in a bit more detail. Here, Crystal suffered an injury and only actually ran the first half of the marathon. While the second half was a struggle for her, it most likely didn’t fatigue her to the point that running the whole marathon would have. This is why she says that she actually doesn’t “feel that spent.” Provided that Crystal completed a full complement of training for this race (meaning she made it through one or more 20 mile runs successfully) and was trained and ready to go, then she had the fitness there to complete the race. So the typical recovery from a marathon gone bad may not be that much of an issue here.

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