2 Marathons in 8 Days: What I’ve Learnt

I’ve already written 2 race reports on Frankfurt and New York City, so here I’m delving into what it was like to do 2 races within the space of a week. Not much recovery time and only the Atlantic Ocean between them.

1.    Google was right

The first thing I did after decided to do both races in a week, was do a search on google for reassuring advice that would say it’s a “good idea” and here’s how to go about it. “No results found.” The general guidance is a day’s recovery per mile, so 26 days. I had 8. Ok, this report is going to be the result for the next person who types in that search term.

On the other hand, I ran my 2 fastest times every – first smashing my PB by over 8 minutes and then beating that original PB from Boston 2013 by 3 seconds in New York. So it shows, I slowed, but was still faster than I was 6 years ago (on tired legs).

2.    Elite athletes have a tough life of travel

There’s no glamour in sitting in planes week in week out, walking through airport terminals, public transport and registration expos. Add to that arriving jet lagged and ending up sleep deprived. Not ideal when your body is your tool of the trade and delivers the goods.

I don’t just mean pro athletes – as millionaire golfers in their private jets have it easier. I’m thinking of amateur elite athletes in most sports who are reaching for Olympic qualification. Runners, swimmers, hockey players, rowers – they might have some sponsorship and grant income, but live close to the bread line to chase their dreams.

3.    Bridge is another word for hill

Frankfurt was dead flat, which made pacing easy and consistent. New York has lots of ginormous bridges – Verrazano and Queensboro have mile long climbs. Then the smaller ones in Brooklyn, the Bronx plus the rolling hills of 5th Avenue and Central Park all take their cumulative toll on the legs.

4.    A hockey ball is my recovery friend

I’ve never even picked up a hockey stick but have found the hard ball the perfect recovery aid to massage into my legs and release trigger points. Thanks to Jason Kehoe for the insights on neuromuscular skeletal physiology.

5.    Marathons are addictive

It’s great for your ego. Nice branded gear; expos with cool stuff; supporters shouting your name and cheering you on; free food and drinks every few miles; a shiny medal to show your friends; the “high” and “buzz” after finishing lasts much longer than the pain and stiffness in your legs. Plus when you break your PB, the next thought is “I know I can go faster. Where next?”

6.    New York does things better

Where else would you get spine tingling tunes like the Star-Spangled Banner and New York, New York sung live as you start the race? Add to that the Manhattan skyline; loads of NYPD helicopters buzzing around within 50m of you, as you cross the Verrazano Bridge; mad screaming fans and huge high school brass bands.

7. Recovery is much slower second time round

I was in bits from head to toe after NYC. Much worse than just having a hangover and muscle stiffness in Frankfurt. The cumulative impact on my body hit me – the huge stress on the body meant my system had enough. My glands swelled up, my nose/sinuses got blocked, my head was stuffy. I was dehydrated.

This was all exacerbated by 3 days of poor sleep in NYC and long flights across the Atlantic and continental USA. What’s more, the super dry air in Reno just dries out the skin and body. Oh, and we’re at altitude in the Sierras, about 1,350m, so it thins out the blood and you have to work harder to just climb the stairs. So not ideal recovery.

8. German tea is better than American Gatorade

Water was my drink of choice in both races at aid stations, but the surprise of picking up warm tea instead of water still was better than downing the sugary sweet liquid called Gatorade. I hated it until mile 20 and then it suddenly became my elixir of choice.

9. There are some great races out there

Flicking through running magazines and visiting stalls in the expo, you get inspired. If money was no object, where would you race? Tokyo sounds cool. San Sebastien at night, Valencia in the sun, the Marathon to Marathon in the arse end of Texas is unique. Big Sur in California is scenic. The Midnight Sun Marathon in the Arctic would also be fun.

10. Having a sponsor entry is great

Instead of eating a non-alcoholic beer and pretzel in the rain in Frankfurt, I got chaperoned into Tavern on the Green for tasty warm food and a free beer in Central Park. Thanks TCS!

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