I’m suffering from post-marathon blues.
It’s been three weeks since I ran the Boston Marathon and I’m binge-reading any article, story or book I can find about the marathon, or running, or athletic feats: even canine ones. That’s how low I am.
Last Sunday, I read an article on the front page of the New York Times sports section, the one that I normally toss or give to my husband. It was about a budding friendship between Paula Radcliffe, the world’s fastest marathon runner, and fellow elite runner Kara Goucher. They are due to give birth on the same date in late September — a first child for Goucher and a second one for Radcliffe — and training together in Portland, Oregon. The article shared some details about their workouts together, Goucher’s pace in a recovery run and her feelings about cutting her mileage. When I was done, I wanted to know more about their training, pace and feelings. I wanted to continue reading about running.
So I picked up the book I am currently reading: “Going Long: Legends, Oddballs, Comebacks & Adventures,” a series of stories compiled by the editors of Runner’s World magazine. They include stories of legends such as Bill Rodgers, the four-time winner of the Boston Marathon in the 1970s, and John J. Kelley, the Boston Marathon winner of 1957, who coached Amby Burfoot, the 1968 winner.
After I wrote those words, I felt an urge to check Burfoot’s blog on Runner’s World, where he’s an editor-at-large, and got inspired by his May 3 entry on runners who have completed a marathon under 3 hours for five consecutive decades. While I was on Runner’s World’s site, I read “Good Dog… Great Story,” about Rhiannon, an Australian shepherd and collie mix who’d been beaten as a puppy, adopted by a runner and completed the Leigh Valley Half-Marathon in Pennsylvania last month in 2 hours 11 min 38s.
A marathon comes after three months of a form of gestation called training that transforms the body and leads to a long, painful and traumatic experience. When I crossed the finish line on April 19, I gave birth to my project. I have since been trying to take it easy, following the advice of running coach Bob Glover: take one day of rest for each mile run: that’s 26.2 days for a marathon, or sometime around Saturday, May 15.
Rest means not racing, not actually resting, and taking it easy is anything but easy.
I trained my body to run fast in the months preceding the marathon and I now need to force it to run slow. My times at the Wednesday, 5.5 mile runs with my local club have increased to 46 minutes and 43 minutes since the marathon, from 37 minutes before. That means my pace dropped to as low as 8 minutes 20 seconds the week after Boston, from about 6min45s. That’s the running equivalent of not being able to fit in a pre-pregnancy pair of jeans.
There are no highs without lows, and to get through the down cycle, I’m using substitutes: they help channel the extra energy I have now that I’m not training anymore. Vacuum cleaning is one of them and the house has been cleaner post-marathon. Another one is biking, my other passion. I’m starting to train for the cycling season, reading books or magazines on my stationary bike almost daily now.
On Monday, I picked up two magazines that had just arrived in the mail for my biking workout: the May 10 edition of the New Yorker and the New York Road Runner’s Spring magazine edition. Guess which one I started to read first.
In my late twenties I was running 3, 4, and even 5 marathons in one year. I did not experience any post marathon blues because as soon as I finished one, I would rest about a week or two and then start training for the next one !
I guess that's why I experienced some marathon burnout by age 35, although I continued to compete and run well at distances up to the 1/2 marathon through my fifties.
I did not know Sara Goucher was expecting her first child soon. I guess that's why she did not run Boston this year. I think next year could be her time to win it !
Don't worry about your slower training pace at this point in time. You need the rest. Glad you are biking, too. Cross training will serve you well. Maybe we can inspire you to try a duathlon this summer.
Thanks for another great blog !
Thank you for sharing, Byron. So unlike me, you had no mysterious ailments before the race and no runner low after the race. You were a born marathon runner…