Lessons learned

After the Marine Corps Marathon Oct. 25, I exchanged a few e-mails with my friend Kaveh, who had to defer his entry until next year thanks to an ankle injury. We traded notes about how we ended up injured in the first place, and what we learned from those injuries. Here’s the parade of horribles that followed my Nashville Country Music Marathon in April 2007, after which I proceeded to:

Run two days after the marathon, a hard 30 minutes with Steve
Run my usual 6-mile route several times per week, with a semi-long run on weekends, because I wanted to “keep up my mileage,” doing absolutely zero cross-training
Go to a wedding in June wearing these *adorable* espadrilles, enjoy a few glasses of wine at said wedding, twist ankle on espadrilles, spend week on crutches courtesy of a doc in a box while awaiting a visit to the sports ortho (advice to you: When you have a drink in one hand, your high-heeled shoes should be in the other)
Resume running schedule immediately after getting doctor’s OK, with no physical therapy, apparently worsening some crazy muscle imbalances caused by a week of not using my left leg
Backpack 26 miles with a 30-lb pack the weekend after doctor’s OK
Be really surprised when my hip hurts so bad I can’t walk after the Marine Corps Half Marathon in Jax in October.

Shocking I ever managed to hurt myself. I was being so smart.

I’ve wised up since then, cross-training like crazy with only three quality running days per week, doing all sorts of core- and hip-strengthening exercises and sitting out as soon as something starts to hurt.

But I’m realizing I still have a lot to learn. The one thing that does kinda hurt post-marathon is the ankle I sprained running in Rock Creek Park in December 2008, which seems to be a sign that I should lay low for six weeks or so, skipping long runs to let my body completely heal itself. More importantly, I need to add some ankle- and foot-strengthening exercises to my repertoire, even though these are so boring, they make core work seem like a costume party. Take towel-scrunches: You place a towel on the floor in front of you, then proceed to pull it toward you by flexing and scrunching your toes. Thrilling. But I’m hoping exercises like these help end my foot/ankle problems for good. If you know of any great foot- or ankle-strengthening exercises, pass ’em along.

I also think I need to start speedwork earlier; nagging injuries kept me from adding speedwork to my training until halfway through my training schedule for MCM. My plan in training for the spring is to lay low for maybe six weeks to let my body fully recover from the last marathon, then start speedwork immediately in December.

I need to ask for a little help from my friends. I try to avoid boring my non-running friends with details about my training, but I realized I’ve done so to a fault, failing to even mention to many close friends that I’d be running a marathon until the weekend of. When my friend Jessica asked what we were up to Sunday, Oct. 25, and I told her it was Marathon Day, she immediately offered to come watch. I said that would be cool, if she wanted to; no big deal if not. I saw Jessica at mile 19, right after a major low point on the National Mall, and it just about saved my race. That’s one of the reasons it’s looking like the National Marathon in March is the revenge race for me; though it’s hilly and can be sparse in the final miles, it’s also located in a place where I can ask my friends to come support me in exchange for a nice pasta dinner the night after.

Finally, about those hills: I need to make my training all hills, all the time, so I’m not intimidated by the somewhat hilly course. My plan is to identify the biggest and most intimidating hills on the course, and to Metro downtown and do hill repeats on them. I don’t want to be wondering how I’ll do on the inclines; I want to know.

Which lessons have you learned from marathons past? Share them by posting a comment below!

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Lessons learned

  1. Congrats on the Marine Corp! I love the National Marathon too, great sites around DC. I tried to take all my tough “lessons” learned and put them into a post called “Top 40 tips for over 40 runners”. While it targets older runners, most of the tips are relevant for all runners. Check it out at http://www.remanents.com/blog/womens-running-tips-for-women-over-40-runners/

  2. Hi Amy! I haven’t yet run a full marathon, just one half marathon (as of last Sunday, LOL). But I thought your list of horribles was both hilarious and sad 🙂 I’m glad you’ve learned so much and can’t wait until the National Marathon when you kick booty!

  3. Sound like some great ideas, especially the resting for a few weeks.

    I definitely like the idea of getting to know the hills for your next marathon. When I was training for the MCM, I ran the hill up Lee Highway every single long run that I did. On race day, it didn’t intimidate me at all.

    Good luck getting ready for the National Marathon.

  4. KateKirk

    This is all really helpful (and ohmygod I turn 40 on saturday so the link is timely). I tend to still act like I’m a resilient 30 year old who’s been running my whole life when I’m not. Core work, cross-training – all that has felt like “extra,” but it needs to become essential to me. I’m proud to say that I do work the hills, since running almost any direction from my house leads to some nice steep inclines!

  5. What I’ve learned:

    -respect the distance

    -train hard, but rest too

    -tempo, speedwork are just as important as getting your mileage in

    -your last week is one of your most important — rest, eat well, don’t overdo anything

    -enjoy those first 20 miles

    -when it hurts, think of the hundreds or thousands you’ve run

  6. trialsoftraining

    “when you have a drink in one hand, your high-heeled shoes should be in the other” ….ha! umm, I needed to hear this advice. I Love me some heels!!

    Once you find out what those HILLs are (uh oh, is it really That hilly? ehhh), let me know! I’ll definitely join you for some of those workouts!

    This time around you are yet another marathon smarter, and it sounds like you have an even *better* idea of what You need on race day. National Marathon 3/20!!! Can’t wait 🙂

  7. Lol those are funny “marathon recovery” tips you have. Unfortunately we runners are a bit hard-headed, even though we are (obviously) very wise. I think I will forever be learning from the marathon experience. One of the biggest lessons I learned was to respect the distance and train right!! I did 4, yes FOUR, marathons before actually completing a decent round of training for #5. They are much less painful when you prepare!

    Most recently, I have been rather lazy following NYC last weekend. I suffered thru a few extra days of stiffness and soreness because I did not stretch, ice bathe, or walk at all to aide with recovery. I knew I needed to do those things but I was lazy instead and paid for it with lingering soreness.

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