Got 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.
I'm running Rock and Roll USA in March, and it will be my seventh marathon. But two weeks before, I may want to run a local trail 50-K. Last year I opted not to run the 50-K out of fear that it would compromise my performance in the marathon. However, last weekend I slowly shuffled for 30 miles on trails as preparation for a 50-mile trail race, and felt no great soreness afterward—though I needed a good nap. This weekend, I found an 18-miler on roads to be much easier physically and especially mentally. Anyway, the question is: If I run the 50-K, does it create too great a risk of a disappointing performance in the marathon two weeks later, even if I run the 50K very slowly and on a more forgiving surface?
Risk? Hey, after seven marathons, you are categorized as a grown-up. You should remove the word “risk” from your vocabulary. Running a 50-K two weeks before a marathon certainly will compromise your ability to achieve a fast time in that marathon. More important: Does it matter? I’m going to suggest that certainly, you can run the ultra, fast or slow, then, given your background, return in two weeks for the marathon. Thus my response: You need to ask yourself, which race is most important to you? If it is the marathon, doing a 50 might not be the best idea. If the it is 50, you can go for it in Race # 1 with the knowledge that you’ll still be able to finish Race # 2 with a smile on your face if not a fast time on the clock.