Racing 2 Marathons

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It is possible to run two marathons very close together (2-3 weeks apart). Indeed, some people can run the marathon distance nearly every day - see Back to Back Marathons. However, racing the marathon distance is very different. To race the distance means you are running to perform as well as you can. For some, racing the marathon means hitting a specific time, for some it means just completing the distance in the time allowed. Either way, it means running at the limits of your abilities. Racing the marathon requires tapering and necessitates some recovery. These facts make racing two marathons in close succession tricky. Here are some thoughts on approaching racing two marathons in short succession. (If you are not racing the marathons, see Running Frequent Marathons.

  • The Golden Rule of Training is to avoid getting injured so you can continue training. This should shape everything.
  • A good recovery from the previous marathon is critical. Depending on how well prepared you are and how hard you push yourself, you may suffer very different levels of damage. Follow the steps in Post Race Recovery.
    • Refueling after the first marathon is absolutely critical - see Nutrient Timing for more details. I would suggest aiming for 50-100g carbohydrate and 50-100g of Protein within 30 minutes of the race finish, then a similar amount within the following couple of hours.
  • For the few days after the first marathon, do some gentle running. A little light exercise may help with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. These Recovery Runs will not build or improve fitness - that is not the goal, so don't push it.
  • If you are injured from the first race, be realistic. It's not worth crippling yourself to finish the second race. Discuss your injury with other experienced marathon runners to get their advice. They can give you valuable perspective.
  • Long runs will not give you any benefit for the second marathon, though they would help with future marathons (maybe). The benefits of endurance running take about 3 weeks to be realized.
  • Once you feel the soreness is gone, start training in earnest. I would focus on doing marathon paced running for short to medium distance. Getting used to marathon pace will help program your mind and body to optimize for that pace. If the marathon pace is not easy (after recovery from the last race) for 6-10 miles, then think carefully about your goals.
  • Limit your longest run to about 13 miles at marathon pace. If you feel you want to do more than that, add in a few miles at tempo pace rather than going further. For instance (10MP + 1T + 1MP + 1T), (9MP + 3T + 1MP) or similar would work well.
  • I would do some speed work as well as MP runs. Yasso 800s are great as both a work out and a predictor.
  • I always believe in running fewer days, with every run a quality run. I think this is even more important when doing two marathons close together.
  • Once you are recovered fully, I would not do any running at slower than marathon pace (recovery from intervals excepted). This is my advice for normal tapering as well.
  • Remember #1 goal – if you are having problems make changes…
    • Back off the distance in MP runs
    • Reduce the intensity of intervals
    • Take more days off