Le post-marathon blues

In French, my native language, we like poetic expressions. We’re not afraid of using English words, if that’s what it takes, especially when English steals our Latin roots.
You say: “Post-partum depression.” We say: “Le baby blues.”
Right now, I’m in “the post-marathon blues.”

It will be two weeks tomorrow since I ran the 112th edition of the Boston marathon, one of the most prestigious long-distance races in the world, and I feel purposeless. Amby Feet, who won the race in 1968 at 21, called it the “post-marathon cold” on his Runner’s World’s blog on May 2. What to do after reaching a goal, in running as in life? I need a new challenge.

Before moving on to the next adventure — most probably a Philadelphia duathlon in July — I can learn from the good and the bad that made me finish Boston in 3 hours 18 minutes 45 seconds, a minute and 9 seconds shy of my personal record.

Good: Have a killer hill for a driveway. If you don’t, train on hills at least twice a week.
I moved to a hilly part of eastern Pennsylvania two months before the race and did all my weekend runs there before that. I trained on the same hills for the New York City marathon last November (3h17m36s). Our driveway is a monster hill. Every time I go out for a run, whether a gentle 5 mile jog or a 22 miler, I know what’s waiting for me when I come back home. Training on hills helps recover from a marathon. I had almost no sore muscles in the days following the Boston race, no problem going up or down the stairs. Thank you, driveway.

Bad turning Good: Discipline plays. Or try not stray from the training plan.
On a gray, cold Sunday few weeks before the race, I got dressed for my scheduled long run, lay on the bed and fell asleep. I woke up tired, feeling sick. I wasn’t really sick. My body was trying to trick me into staying home. Once I passed the door, I felt fine and ran 22 miles. The hardest part of a run is getting out the door. My last long run, three weeks before the race, was on a Sunday morning in New York City. With a serious hangover. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone — I made sure I drank a lot of water — but I couldn’t find another time to fit that run in. Afterwards, I was glad I managed to get out of the hotel door. I figured if I could run about 19 miles with a hangover, surely I’ll be able to finish 26.2 miles sober.The long runs aren’t just for the legs. They’re for your head, to reassure you that, oui, you can do it.

Bad: Waiting is worse than running on race day.
I arrived at the start of the Boston marathon at about 7 a.m., three hours before the start. It was cold. In spite of several layers of throw-away clothes, I failed to keep myself warm. I had lain on my plastic bag in the fetus position, shivering, unable to move, trying to save my energy for the race. Some runners were better prepared: folding chairs, inflatable mattresses or cardboard boxes to lie on. Next time, I’ll know better.

Could be better: Know what you’re training for.
My training plan was an adaptation of those offered on Runner’s World’s Web site. I included a lot of cross-training: biking, abs, core exercises, push-ups, and “the plank.” I exercised everyday, but tried to limit my runs to four days a week. I did hills and speed work, but never in preparing for the Boston marathon did I run a race — it happened around the time I moved from New York City to Pennsylvania — nor did I really check the watch to evaluate my pace. My training plan was good enough to approach my New York personal record, but not good enough to beat it. To break my record, I would have needed to train a bit more professionally, perhaps with a team and check my pace. Maybe. Anything can happen in a marathon.

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