You’ve crossed the finish line, high-fived your support crew and uploaded the pictures to Facebook: Congratulations, you’ve finished your first marathon!
After months and months of carefully planned training to complete their first 26.2-mile race, runners often take some well-deserved (and necessary) time off. But after putting in all the work to get in marathon shape, you’d hate to lose that fitness by taking too much time away from running. The key is to find the balance between recovery and regression.
“I was definitely excited to run again but really had to wait until all my ailments healed,” said Dale Arakawa, 48, from Long Beach, Calif., who completed his first marathon on Oct. 13. A hamstring injury slowed him down during the race, but his finish excited him to continue training as soon as possible.
“There was no real burnout factor,” he says. “This process has really altered me and, as long as I’m physically capable—I will always run!”
Arkawa is part of the Saucony 26 Strong project, a collaboration between Competitor and Saucony that paired a veteran runner with a first-timer to train for a fall marathon. He and his partner, veteran Chris Spensley, 47, from Newport Beach, Calif., are planning to keep the momentum going by signing up for a half marathon in February.
“I probably jumped back a little too early post-marathon since my hammy issue is still troubling me,” Arkawa says. “I will do another marathon, because I want to do it uninjured. After months and months of uninjured training with Spensley, it was frustrating to have to finish my first marathon while injured. I know I can post a much, much better time.”
For most people, the first marathon is about finishing. With one under your belt, the goal now can focus on fixing the things you may have done wrong and maybe improve upon your time.
Christine Sinclair, 27, of Jamaica Plain, Mass., who ran the Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon on Oct. 6, had that same excitement after that first race.
“I was ready to run a few days after my marathon but I knew I needed to take the time to recover,” she says. “I remember seeing people in the train station the following weekend with their B.A.A half marathon medals and thought, ‘I wish I could have done that race!’”
She registered for the Los Angeles Marathon on March 9 just a week after registration opened. Saucony 26 Strong vet Caroline Cook, who along with her first-timer Penny Dora ran the Grand Rapids Marathon on Oct. 20, echoed lots of the team’s thoughts about taking time off to recover.
“I love the routine of running,” she says. “So I do not feel a burnout. But I am taking a little break from the intensity and total weekly mileage. I always have the ‘next’ marathon in mind—usually about six months apart or even one year away.
For runners training with a group, the end of marathon training can mean less time with friends—until they choose the next adventure.
“I would continue to run either way, since running is a part of my healthy lifestyle,’’ says David Wilson, 50, of Mission Viejo, Calif., who ran his marathon in Long Beach on Oct. 13. “I enjoyed all the runners I trained with immensely—they kept my motivated and honest with my training, and made it social and fun…I plan on continuing running with the group, it’s much more fun training in a group and learning from seasoned marathoners.”
Other Saucony 26 Strong veterans offered these post-marathon tips:
• Get healthy. It’s great to harness the excitement of the marathon, but give your body some time to heal. Give those nagging injuries some time off and try cross-training or at least dialing down the intensity and mileage. It’s called the off-season for a reason.
• Make a plan. Putting another race on the schedule will help you get back into the training routine once you’ve recovered. A half marathon in the winter or early spring can help you keep that endurance base while dialing down the intensity.
• Join a group. The finish of the marathon doesn’t mean the end of your training group. Pick another race, even if it isn’t a marathon, to do together and stay in touch. If you did the first race solo, find like-minded runners at a local store or club to help keep you motivated and engaged.
To find out more about the Saucony 26 Strong team, visit 26strong.com.