A Portrait of The Runner after A Marathon

I always forget just how bad I feel after a marathon. And of course I am convinced that each time feels worse than any previous recovery.

It’s almost impossible to walk. My legs hurt. Any attempt to dorsal flex my foot is painful and the calf is so tight the attempt is generally unsuccessful — giving me an odd hobbling gate. My quads hurt too, going down stairs is a challenge. Every now and then my hamstrings feel left out and they give me a twinge just so I’ll remember that they worked hard too.

This race had a mental depression to recover from too. Having been forced to reconcile myself to a 3 hour goal by injury, I was dismayed to find I could not even achieve that. By the end of the race I was telling myself “I’m never racing another marathon again”. Time to work on half-marathons. I might run a scenic marathon slowly and easily to enjoy its beauty, but I’m never racing again. Obviously I can’t do them.

A day later I was pretty much out of my funk. This one didn’t work, but I’ve done well in all previous ones. (And, I keep having to remind myself, by most people’s standards I did well in this one). There will be others.

Mental recovery came pretty easily ( 🙂 that is, assuming that counts as recovery, some would argue that running marathons is the disease and I’ve merely recovered the disease). Physical recovery comes more slowly.

Day 0: After the marathon walking was extremely difficult. Walking back to the hotel was almost as hard as the last mile of the race. But after some rest, a bath, food — I found I was going up and down stairs almost as if I were a normal person.

Day 1: The next day was much worse. I needed to hold onto something to come down. I went for a 16 mile bike ride (which took an hour and a half — slow!) and going up hills was unpleasant at first but I warmed up toward the end and felt better.

Day 2: My calves hurt. But I am struck by the fact that after I notice that I’m thinking, but they don’t hurt as much as they should. Four short bike rides today. Hills are less of a challenge. Stairs still require a handrail.

Day 3: I find I am walking down stairs side-ways, but without needing a handrail. Yay! Progress. During the course of the day the pain faded to an ache. I biked ~30 miles at a normal pace (though I found I tired more easily). I did a basic pilates class. I survived one of the most painful sports massages of my life.

Day 4: I no longer notice stairs. I did a harder pilates session, and biked about 40 miles. I still tire very easily. My calves are still sore.

Day 5: The pain seems basically gone now, but the calves are still very tight. 20 miles on the bike, didn’t feel the same tiredness as yesterday. First yoga class. I ran across the street. I’m getting a post-marathon cold.

Day 6: I thought I’d try a short run (up to the Wilcox and around a couple of times). My right calf tightened up again, so I stopped and tried to work on it. It still feels very dense. I couldn’t get it to loosen up. So I cut the run short (maybe 1.5 miles). I managed a half hour on the eliptical (though my heart rate was about 4% too high) and ~20miles on the bike.

Day 7: 6 mile run today. Calf got knotted up around 4 miles. More tired than I should be after an easy run.

Week 2: 0-3-5-10-0-11-8 That is 0 miles the first day (but a half hour on the elliptical), then gradually building to 10 miles. Another day off, and then a real work-out, running on a hilly grassy course, two miles at ~6:40, two more at 6:30, and a final one (I was tired) at 6:50. Still a little slow, but definitely much closer to normal.

Week 3: 0-10-5-11-5-10-10 Back to a reasonable weekly mileage. On the low side, but reasonable. No really long runs, nothing really fast. But the easy stuff feels normal.

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