Friday, May 21, 2010

The Boston Massacre

I started this one a few weeks back and then forgot to finish it.... I've been made aware that people are actually reading this blog, so I'll try to be more timely!

So the 'Boston Effect' from the last post has turned into what we're calling the 'Boston Massacre."

It seems that just about every runner we worked with leading up to the Boston Marathon has had a new issue pop up since the race. In talking with one of the survivors yesterday, we came up with some reasons that I thought I would share, especially since I know thoughts of fall marathons are on many people's minds.

Staying healthy is all about balance. Training balanced with rest. Athletic goals balanced with family and work. Gluts balanced with hip flexors. Balancing the checkbook in such a way that justifies yet another new pair of shoes.... you get the idea.

Training for and running a marathon on the road is probably one of the most challenging things that most runners can take on (no offense to the trail runners out there!) Boston in particular, due to the time of year it's run, the qualifying standard, the course, the pre and post zoo, and the stress this all creates, is more challenging than most.

Training for a marathon is hard enough, but to maintain balance through the process is especially tough. I know one guy getting ready to do Burlington this weekend, who sold his business about a month ago and is otherwise unencumbered, and is still feeling the pressure. Keeping up with appropriate strength training, stretching, seeing your sports chiropractor, and getting enough rest becomes tough particularly when you're training volume gets high in the run up to the race. Quite often something has to give, and then you go and race 26 miles on pavement, creating the perfect storm for injury.

I think there are lessons here for anyone considering training for and running their first marathon, or doing that distance with a PR time goal in mind:

1. There is a certain amount of strength training, particularly core work, necessary to prevent injury when training for distance. My unscientific observation is that a minimum of twice per week of this type of cross-training, coupled with somewhat consistent stretching, helps to keep people out of trouble. Ensure that you factor in the time/energy required to keep up with this non-running work when planning your training.

2. Even when you do appropriate cross-training, any lurking imbalances that you have are more likely to manifest when you take on training for distance. If you have small nuisance type of injury that you've been able to manage with the foam roller, don't be surprised if it gets worse when you increase your volume of training. It's always easier to address something early on than waiting a few weeks before your race when the pain threatens to shut you down.

3. Factor in increased rest time. If you already have a busy life and sleep less than 8 hours per night, your body might not hold up to this type of training if you can't carve out the appropriate recovery time.

I'm all for marathon training (my kids need braces after all), but just be sure to take into account the big picture before signing up. For me, my initial enthusiasm for another marathon in the months leading up to Boston have been reduced to trying to set a new 5K PR this year.