Week 8 of marathon training isn’t going according to plan, but then, what training doesn’t experience its fair share of adjustments? Having completed five marathons so far, this is just one of many lessons learned: things come up, life happens and our body reacts to the physical challenge we’re taking on.

Still, what exactly ends up taking you off track can be surprising. Actually, I think it’s rarely the same problem twice, at least physically-speaking. Unless that is,  you’re dealing with a chronic, on-again/off-again injury, I suppose, like IT Band issues that flare whenever you reach a certain mileage threshold. Me, I just think I injure different parts of my body. Ah, the life of a distance runner. At least I am getting to know my body very, very well. There’s that. And I truly do think this is a good thing.

This time around, my quads were aching something fierce—OK, they were on fire—following this past weekend’s 18-miler. The 7-mile run + 8 strides the day prior may have aggravated things since I felt the first signs of overuse after that run. But I believe that Saturday’s long run—we ran out 9 miles (first couple downhill), then back in 9 miles (yep, that meant the final miles were uphill)—is what left my so, so tired legs begging for mercy.

When you can’t walk normal and going down the stairs is excruciating, and when your legs ache while you’re (attempting) to sleep and when icing feels oh so good the next morning, you just know things aren’t right. It probably makes sense to rest. Definitely rest.

So this week I’ve gone without a speed workout (6 miles + strides) and a long midweek run (12 miles), and just kinda-sorta eeked out a slooow 3-miler yesterday. Today I rest again, with the hopes of feeling up for a longer run tomorrow. The training plan calls for 11, with 6 of the miles at 15K or half-marathon race pace, but I will be content to see how my body responds to a longer run without adding the speed. We’ll see. A big concern is that I have my first 20-miler on tap for Saturday. I’d love to be able to do this—and feel great when I finish.

This week 8 just happens to be my second-highest mileage week—54 miles, just a mile shy of my highest mileage week in another three weeks.

So it would seem this is probably right, feeling tired and fatigued and a little spent at this near-peak time in my training. I’ve been working my body hard, tackling a more ambitious training plan this time around. I’m keeping it all in perspective, though, and not freaking out about missing (at least) a couple of training runs this week. Here’s what’s helping me:

Talking with friends who “get” the rigors of marathon training. While the gas station attendant will simply stare with his mouth gaping open when I tell him “a lot of running” means, well, an 18-mile run, friends who are either training themselves or have in the past understand both the motivation behind such high mileage, how common injuries are, and also what it feels like to have to go a day or two without hitting the pavement. (Not fun.) These same friends are also great about keeping my spirits up. My wise and sweet friend Lisa said this when I told her my sore legs were feeling better, but still heavy when I ran 3 miles: “Great news, you’re just heavy legged. This should pass and the end result will be a stronger runner.” I like it! Another made-me-smile moment: a dear friend, also training for a spring marathon, texted me to share her lagging motivation at this point in the training and offered this hashtag – #thisshitisgettingreal Exactly, my friend.

Cross-training … and just BEING. I’m so thankful for my twice-weekly Pilates sessions. Not only because I feel stronger every time I get on the reformer, but also because it’s a time I can stretch out my limbs and just BREATHE deeply. There’s moments of intense working out while I’m there—my abs can feel on fire, in a good way—but there are also times of quiet focus and lengthening of the muscles in my body—the muscles that get so tight from running. This morning’s class left my feeling more aligned, looser in my limbs, and stronger overall.

Deep-tissue muscle work. After yesterday’s discouraging run, I decided to take some action and called Dan Zemper of Zemper Restorative Therapy here in Traverse City. I’ve mentioned Dan in past posts, like this one, and how his practice of Active Release Technique has made a big difference in my marathon trainings and the injuries/issues that crop up. I was thrilled to hear he could see me this morning, right after my Pilates class, and though some of his muscle kneading can be painful, it’s in a hurts-so-good kind of way. He focused on my quads but also worked my lower legs a bit, too, just to the side of my shins and the tops of my ankles. Most interestingly, he worked an area known as the femerol nerve, located near the top of the quads/hip flexor area. This nerve needs to be “loose” and “fluid,” he told me, but it can get constricted. He worked to break it up. It was far from comfortable, but I left the session feeling even more loose and relaxed.

I’m not quite at the halfway mark of this training plan. I know there’s plenty left to accomplish. This helps me remember that losing a few days now by listening to my body is not going to ruin things—if anything, it’ll only make me stronger come race day. There’s time. Lots of time to rock it out.

Are you training for a marathon or half-marathon right now? How’s it going?

What helps you when you need to slow things down, or even take more rest days than planned?




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3 Responses to “Sore legs + massage + rest: a midway-through marathon training update”

  1. Wow…. your post is eerily timely. I am on week 11 of an 18 week program, training for my first marathon. I did 17 last Sunday… and it was unpleasant… and that scared me a little (ok a lot). My 15 from the weekend before went great… and I am on the cusp of my 18 this Saturday. I am warmed to know that feeling a little beat up at this point in training is normal as the weekly mileages are starting to add up. I have nothiing to compare this too, as this is my first, so I was starting to think that my soreness, tiredness, and crappy run meant I wasnt cut out for this distance. Thanks for your honesty and keeping it real. Newbies need to hear this stuff from experienced marathoners! It lets us know that what we are going through is normal and will make a difference ome race day.

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