Running two marathons two weeks apart sounded crazy to me at first. I’m no ultra runner, so it seemed a borderline bad decision, but I was too curious to pass it up.
First, I asked around the dailymile running community and did some Google searching. It turns out, back-to-back marathons aren’t a new concept, and the trend seems to be growing in popularity. Some recommended using one race as a “training run” and one as a “race.” Others found they were able to race both and ran even faster in the second.
Okay, sounds good. I’m doing it!
Wait… how could this sound like a “good” idea? Because marathon training, as fun as it is, is still hard “work.” It involves a time commitment, early mornings, a tired body, and a whole lot of self-discipline. Race day itself is much more exciting and the discomfort is very temporary.
Especially in these childbearing years, fitting in more races during an “on” year is ideal. I squeezed in three full marathons this year because, Lord-willing, we want to grow our family again soon. That means three marathons this year and possibly no marathons ’til who knows when. I know I will be back, I’m just not in a hurry. This season is a short and precious one!
My Back-to-Back Marathon Experience
After reading and receiving advice from other runners, here are five points that worked for me and made these back-to-back marathons a GOOD experience:
1. Foam-Roll, Easy Run, Rest, Repeat
One key principle that all of the back-to-back advice shared was RECOVERY. With only two weeks between the marathons, your body cannot gain any more fitness. I ran a few easy runs, super low mileage, stretched, and foam-rolled. I tried to stay off my feet more than usual, or at least I did my best with two toddlers.
2. Refuel and Rehydrate Well
Immediately after running a marathon, I can hardly eat anything. A day later, and I will eat everything in sight! I did my best to eat quality foods — like healthy carb-loading for the next race — and I drank water like crazy to make up for all I lost in the first race. LOTS of water!
3. See What The Day Brings
While I raced the first marathon all-out (because I didn’t know there would be a second), I had a tentative plan for the second marathon: run the first 13 miles at race pace and adjust from there. Would my legs stop working or would my energy tank? I wanted to stay open to the idea of slowing down and running a more leisurely pace for the last half of the race, if necessary. I was willing to embrace whatever the day had in store for me.
4. Think the Best
One of my worries about running another race was ending on a bad note. The Grand Forks Marathon went well and I didn’t want to end the year with a DNF or a death march. I took into account the fact that I had just run a marathon, but I didn’t dwell on it. Keeping a positive attitude and remaining thankful for this opportunity was key. Each stride, each run, each race is a gift from God, and I remind myself of that often.
5. Account for a Harder “Wall”
Mile 20 seems to be my “wall” in most marathons — so close, but yet SO FAR! I anticipated the second marathon’s “wall” to be even worse than in my first marathon and ran the first 13 miles to compensate for that. The Blue Ox is a more challenging course with hills, especially from mile 20 on, and the extra time I banked from the earlier miles helped to keep me on track for a good finish.
So what happened? The back-to-back marathons went AWESOME! I was more fatigued in the second marathon, especially that final 20, but I was able to run faster because of the cool weather and possibly some training benefits from the earlier marathon. Whatever happened, it worked well!
I recover from marathons relatively quickly, and that made this experience a great one. In case you didn’t catch my recaps of the Grand Forks Marathon and Blue Ox Marathon, I actually ran almost 3 minutes faster in the second race, with a 3:25:36 and as the top female finisher.
Racing both races well is possible, and I do hope to run back-to-back marathons again in the future! It’s like my favorite 2-for-1 deal!