Are Back-to-Back Marathons Unhealthy?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 | By Hal Higdon
 
 
 
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Are Back-to-Back Marathons Unhealthy?

Have a question about running? You're in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon's Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.

QUESTION

My mother recently went to a chiropractor, and he stated that it is unhealthy to run marathons only two weeks apart. I am wondering what your thoughts are about this? I run 60-80 miles a week. Last year I ran five marathons and am doing the same this year. I have never experienced any major injuries, and it takes me about 3-4 days to recovery after a marathon.

HAL’S ANSWER

Unhealthy? What knowledge does this particular chiropractor have about running as a sport? For most people, I almost might agree with him--although I find the word "unhealthy" a bit of a reach. For a relative newcomer, whose pre-marathon weekly mileage was only 15-25 miles a week, or who had never run before, I would say, yes. Running a second marathon two weeks after a first, that’s a stretch. That person will barely have recovered from number one, thus bad things may happen in number two, although don’t ask me for a check-list. If you examine my Marathon Recovery programs, you will discover that I suggest a 5-week post-marathon recovery period ending with a Welcome-Back 10-K. For most runners, two marathons a year probably are enough.

But you are different. You’re carrying a workload that probably puts you in the top 10 percentage of runners training today when it comes to mileage. For someone running at that level, recovery sometimes comes more quickly, although please notice the purposeful use of the word “sometimes.” In all honesty, you probably are not fully recovered after those 4-5 days. You think you are, but you are not. There probably is some residual muscle damage and glycogen depletion that is hard to measure, but you can soldier on and get through a second marathon within two weeks. That doesn’t mean you will be able to maximize your potential in one or both races, but you should be able to finish in reasonably good shape. Bring your cell phone and call Mom to tell her you still are healthy after you cross the line.

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