Q&A: Should I Race Right After a Marathon?

I ran the TCS New York City Marathon, but I also want to run my town’s Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. Is this too soon to start racing again, or is there a way I should approach training for those few weeks in between?

Running a marathon is a big accomplishment, and it also takes a big toll on your body. Even though the race is over, the strategic training is not. Just like you took care of your body for the months leading up to the big day, you need to take care of it now.

Resting from running is imperative in the days immediately post-marathon. Typically, delayed onset muscle soreness will last three to four days. Use this time to enjoy your accomplishment, tend to your injuries, stretch, foam roll, and take short walks to improve circulation and blood flow to your legs.

When you are no longer sore, I recommend starting exercise with “active recovery,” including low-intensity, shorter-duration (less than an hour) workouts. Try walking, cycling, swimming, or using an elliptical trainer to start. I usually recommend at least seven full days off from running. However, if you must run, keep it below three miles for the first run and set an easy pace, or even try breaking up the distance with a brief walk.

With three-and-a-half weeks between the marathon and the Turkey Trot, you should be able to participate. However, listening to your body is the most important thing. If you have any nagging injuries, sit this one out until you are fully recovered and pain-free.

I would recommend approaching the Turkey Trot as a “fun run”—that way you are not tempted to begin high-intensity training too soon after the marathon. Make sure to listen to your body during and after the run, and although this distance is much shorter than 26.2, it may feel a bit difficult. Cool down and stretch post-race, and before indulging in a well-deserved slice of Thanksgiving pie. Good luck!

ABOUT THIS CONTRIBUTOR

Lauren Alix

Lauren Alix, PT, DPT, CSCS, is a doctor of physical therapy at Hospital for Special Surgery. She has run two marathons and numerous other road races, and enjoys helping runners become better at their sport through running analysis, training, and rehabilitation when needed. Lauren is passionate about injury prevention in athletes, and specializes in treating orthopedic injuries. She received her doctorate in physical therapy from Springfield College in Massachusetts.

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