Crush Back-To-Back Race Days

PLAN YOUR RACE SCHED­ULE SMARTLY SO YOU DON’T SET YOUR­SELF UP FOR BURNOUT.

Runner's World South Africa - - CONTENTS - BY ASH­LEY MA­TEO

Afraid of burnout? Don’t be.

TTHERE’S A REA­SON you’ll prob­a­bly never see De­siree Lin­den, Galen Rupp, or other top pros race both the Chicago and New York Marathons. Elites know that push­ing them­selves that hard in more than one ma­jor marathon per sea­son can hin­der per­for­mance in race num­ber two. But run­ning back-to-back races isn’t that un­com­mon for am­a­teurs, whether it’s at run­ning fes­ti­vals in which you can do mul­ti­ple races on con­sec­u­tive days, or sim­ply be­cause there are so many races within weeks dur­ing peak run­ning sea­son. Some of us sign up im­me­di­ately af­ter one race be­cause we botched a PB oppo; oth­ers just want to keep rid­ing that run­ner’s high to the next fin­ish line. There’s no need to set­tle for just one ma­jor race per sea­son, as long as you know what you’re get­ting into.

Why You Fall Apart

Gen­eral run­ning wis­dom tends not to sup­port stack­ing races in­volv­ing a marathon dis­tance be­cause af­ter kilo­me­tre 32 –

“FA­TIGUE USU­ALLY FADES FASTER THAN FIT­NESS DOES,” SAYS HAMIL­TON. “BY TAK­ING SOME RE­COV­ERY TIME AF­TER THE RACE, YOU’LL HOPE­FULLY RE­DUCE FA­TIGUE, BUT YOU WON’T LOSE MUCH FIT­NESS.”

the long­est long run in most marathon train­ing plans – you push your body be­yond its phys­i­cal lim­its, says Janet Hamil­ton, an ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­o­gist and run­ning coach with run­ningstrong.com. And run­ning at race ef­fort adds an­other el­e­ment of stress. “Phys­i­o­log­i­cally, you’re go­ing to tax your en­ergy re­sources, you may ex­pe­ri­ence mi­cro­trauma in mus­cle cells, and you’ll prob­a­bly ex­pe­ri­ence some men­tal fa­tigue,” she says.

If you push your­self that far again too soon, you’ll in­crease your risk of in­jury. It’s also not un­com­mon for run­ners to ex­pe­ri­ence re­duced im­mune func­tion and slower re­cov­ery af­ter­wards. “Long-du­ra­tion, max­i­mum-ef­fort ac­tiv­i­ties place huge loads on a va­ri­ety of ar­eas – mus­cle tis­sues, ten­dons, bones, even blood ves­sels and the mu­cosal lin­ings of the res­pi­ra­tory sys­tem,” Hamil­ton says. “Tis­sue re­pair and re­gen­er­a­tion takes time and meta­bolic en­ergy, and if you di­vert that meta­bolic en­ergy to re­sume hard train­ing too soon, you may short­change the re­pair and re­gen­er­a­tion process.”

That’s still true if you’re fol­low­ing a marathon with a half, and po­ten­tially even back-to-back halfs. “While a half marathon is half the dis­tance, it’s also run at a harder ef­fort than a full marathon,” she adds. “It’s still a max­i­mum-ef­fort ac­tiv­ity, and still de­serves re­spect in terms of re­cov­ery.”

How to Stay Strong

Leah Rosen­feld, a coach for the Run SMART Project, an on­line coach­ing ser­vice, has a sim­ple but ef­fec­tive pre­scrip­tion for re­cov­ery: “Ideally, af­ter a marathon, you get one day of re­cov­ery per mile (1.6km) of run­ning,” she says. “That’s about three weeks of light, ac­tive re­cov­ery work; then it would be ideal to have an­other three to four weeks to build up again be­fore an­other race. So you would have about two months be­tween races.”

One thing you don’t want to do be­tween the two races: ad­di­tional steady-state runs, cau­tions Rosen­feld. “You ab­so­lutely would not want to tax the same en­ergy sys­tem that you just used. That’s why I think some peo­ple feel to­tally fried or flat in race num­ber two – their cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem gets at­tacked and over­loaded.” In­stead, if you’re run­ning be­tween 12 and 25km, break that up into kilo­me­tre reps over a 24-hour pe­riod. For in­stance: three 5K runs through­out the day ver­sus 15km at once. For faster work­outs, keep your in­ter­vals to just 30 or 60 sec­onds, with dou­ble the rest.

If you’re go­ing to do some­thing that re­quires high mileage in a short amount of time (like a run­ning fes­ti­val or multi-leg re­lay race), Hamil­ton sug­gests get­ting your long­est train­ing run up to a dis­tance that’s equiv­a­lent to the to­tal you’ll be rac­ing.

The Ul­ti­mate Save

And, of course, Hamil­ton says, you can al­ways just de­cide to take it easy. “Com­plet­ing an event at a sub-max­i­mal ef­fort will not re­sult in the same tis­sue dam­age pro­file as com­pet­ing in an event at a max­i­mal ef­fort. If you run an event rather than race it, the cal­cu­lus changes.”

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