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Marathon Done? Start Again!

by Karl Gruber
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Soon after completing several weeks or months of training to prepare for a half or full marathon, it seems the majority of runners get the itch to do the whole thing over. Some non-runners might call this being a “glutton for punishment,” but any avid runner soon realizes they miss the whole process despite the difficulty of training. 

I recently read an article stating that running’s addiction is dangerous, which made me chuckle a bit — 78 marathons later, now they tell me! Like many other things in life, running may be addictive if compulsively done without a pre-determined desired result. You can run seven days a week simply to run for the joy of it; you can use running to escape from daily stresses and reduces anxiety and depression; or you can pursue it without reason to the point of injury. 

What I am talking about here is rebooting your marathon training cycle to maintain your physical fitness level and continuing to enjoy the runner lifestyle and camaraderie of the running community. 

In a 2014 research report, E.E. Van Der Wall explores the effects of extreme exercise and long-distance running — in particular marathons or even longer distances — on health and physical well-being. He states that “…ultramarathon runners are generally healthier and take less sick time than the rest of the population.” 

Outside of the few individuals who run multiple marathons or ultra-marathons per year, most runners follow the cycle of training and racing two marathons a year — one in the spring and one in the fall. This is a very smart way to train almost year-round for a long distance race. You have two long cycles of slow, progressive training that peak on race day and are buffered by a gap of a few weeks of recovery time. 

Most marathon training programs are 16 to 20 weeks long, which allows you to build your body’s ability to handle the stress and effort of running 26.2 miles. And yes, most runner’s bodies do take a pounding during training and racing, thus the importance of the cyclical nature of the twice-a-year marathon training and the between recovery period. That down time between the two training periods is key to helping you start all over again with your training. The recovery period also allows you to feel refreshed mentally so you can again train with enthusiasm. 

As for running multiple half, full or even ultra-marathons in a year, as I mentioned earlier, there are few runners who can handle the almost constant training and racing. While these runners also go through cycles of peaking and recovery, their fitness and aerobic levels seldom dip too low. However, even these runners take their lumps. 

Referring again to the research done by E.E. Van Der Wall, he concludes that ultra-runners “… tend to suffer from more knee pain, stress fractures, allergies and asthma than the general population.” While they do have the ability to stay at their physical peak most of the time, they are not impervious to physical ailments and injuries. Compared to the general population of runners, these type of runners are the exception, not the rule. 

Unless you are a vastly experienced distance runner who knows that your body and mind are ready to handle multiple distance races a year, stick with two marathons per year. As I stated previously about overcoming the post-race blues, following this plan will not only keep you in the game, but also keep your body healthy and fit, your mind refreshed, and your outlook enthusiastic about another 26.2 miles.

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