Today I started "running" again for the first time since the marathon on Sunday. Despite the fear I had that my feet might implode when I put on my trusty Nike Pegasus road shoes - the ones I wore race day - the workout went fine.
Now, is there a right way or a wrong way for the average runner to start back into running after a marathon? Actually, I 'd really like to know, because I have no idea. For some reason, I have done a lot of research on training and what to do on race day, etc., but what to do once the race is done eludes me. I just haven't really looked into it. This sort of reminds me of having my first child. In anticipation of the big event, I read countless books on pregnancy and labor, but I never did read anything on what to do when the baby arrived. (I'm still trying to figure that one out.)
Given how I felt after the event, I thought I would be lucky if I got myself to exercise at all for the first week. I mean, I could barely walk after the race or the day after. In fact, the day after was an ugly reminder of why all the laundry should be done before race weekend. The countless trips up and down the stairs hauling baskets of clothes about unhinged me. Surprisingly, though, that day and a half were the worst. I didn't experience delayed onset muscle soreness, so each day after the initial two has been better. And, by Wednesday after the race, I was already feeling pretty good. Not perfect, but pretty good.
So, bright and early this morning I got dressed in my running clothes. Even though I knew I wouldn't get to any exercise until later in the morning, getting dressed at least got me in the proper mindset and I knew I would find it harder to back out. After a full morning of the school-day routine, reading books, playing Candyland, and building race car tracks, I convinced my little guy to go downstairs to play while I attempted the treadmill. Sitting down to put on my shoes, though, I hesitated. It wasn't just the feet-imploding thing - although that was a concern; rather, in sitting down I realized that for the first time in a long time I didn't really have a plan of what I wanted to do.
Turning to Jeff Galloway's book Marathon, didn't help, as I realized I should have already been walking everyday since the race to get the blood moving to my muscles. Furthermore, I should have already started interspersing run breaks into my walks. Clearly, I was a few days behind the times, as mostly all I had been doing was sitting on my butt. Not a good thing when you would really like to hit the trails for an eight-miler on Saturday, and it is already Thursday.
Anyway, sitting there, staring at my shoes, and wondering if I was supposed to return the timing chip still tied to my laces, I started thinking of my options. Finally, I decided - for lack of a better idea - to turn my race day run/walk sequence inside out. So, instead of running three minutes and 30 seconds and then walking 40 seconds, I would be walking the longer segment and running the shorter. This seemed like a nice way to introduce my legs to the idea of running again. While I had been heartened by the fact that my feet hadn't immediately imploded on me when I put on my shoes (I've only been wearing Birkenstocks since the race), I still hadn't discounted the idea that my legs could be the imploders instead.
I started the treadmill at a modest 3.5 mph pace and got walking. As the first run segment approached, I couldn't help but get a little anxious. Really, I had so many aches and pains after the marathon that I really didn't want to find out that they were still lingering. What had me most on edge was my left ankle. That sucker had bothered me in the half marathon a few weeks ago and in the marathon both. When I went in to have my post-race deep tissue massage yesterday (yay!), the therapist told me that the plantaris muscle on that side felt extremely tight. In fact, she said something about "corded" and "ropey." While the words sounded complimentary to me, her tone made it clear that it was a bad thing. It hasn't bothered me when I walk on it, but it's definitely been tender to the touch since the marathon and I have been icing it fairly regularly.
As it turned out, though, the little bit of running I did didn't irritate it. In fact, the hardest thing about my walk/run routine was doing the math on when to switch from one pace to the other. Next time I'll take my Garmin with me. I did notice at around fifteen minutes into it that my quads felt a bit fatigued. The hamstrings followed about ten minutes later. At 30 minutes, I was done and none the worse for wear. I did use my metronome to keep my strides short (thank you, Dr. Heiderscheit), so maybe that helped.
So, all's well that ends well? I certainly hope so. Right now I am still reveling in the happy feeling of accomplishment that came with crossing that 26.2-mile finish line a few days ago. I may not be one of the "gazelles" that toe the line on race day, but it's nice to know I can achieve the same medal they can - it just takes me a little longer. I am amazed that I haven't felt the typical post-race letdown that I usually get. And, given the magnitude of the accomplishment, I would have expected the corresponding letdown to be huge. And, who knows, maybe it is still coming. Right now, all I know is that I am happy to have done the race, and I am enjoying the fact that my whole life isn't wrapped up in it anymore. I can do runs at my own pace and desired distance with little thought to plans or expectations. I have two races in the next month or so that are just for fun: a team relay and a half marathon/beer run. After that, I will make the transition to winter running, which - perversely - I actually enjoy, and work on healing my patellar tendonitis for good.
As for races next year, I already have some ideas percolating, including a marathon in the fall that would be pretty neat if it worked out. For the nearer future, next spring there are three half marathons in 14 days that do intrigue.... If that works out, then I would be carrying on a family tradition into its fourth year now, do a trail run that kicked my butt this year, and add a new race that is locally really well known but somehow I haven't managed to do yet. I guess my philosophy is if you can't pick and choose a race, you might as well just do them all!
Run happy, be happy!