There are two kinds of marathoners the day after a race: 1) Those who are sore and achy with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), and 2) those who are feeling good and eager to continue running, like, right now.
It's those second kind of runners who need to worry about injury.
Here's a story I wrote before last year's CIM, quoting experts saying that runners should take at least a week off before resuming running. I reprint it here, just changing the dates:
Once there was this marathon runner who had boundless enthusiasm, middling talent and little capacity for listening to advice -- a sure recipe for disaster, if there ever was one.
He was a cocky 25-year-old and had just finished his second 26.2-mile ordeal, the quadriceps-straining, vertically challenging San Francisco Marathon.
So, what did he do the next day? He went running and kept running all the next week. Until his body broke down and required arthroscopic knee surgery, followed by many weeks of enforced recovery, weight gain and periodic existential despair.
Yeah, I was pretty stupid back in 1985.
It's debatable whether I'm any smarter today, but at least I know this much: Middle-packers need to take at least a week off from running after a marathon. I took an eight-day break after October's Cowtown Marathon -- though I did swim and cycle -- and my legs felt fresh and my fitness level stayed strong when I returned to the pavement.
So for those runners competing in the 27th California International Marathon, let my youthful indiscretion serve as a cautionary tale.
Take it easy after the CIM.
You deserve a break.
If you keep pushing, mental burnout or injuries from overuse (or both) can take hold and knock you flat.
This doesn't hold for those serious, high-mileage (100-plus per week) runners for whom a marathon is not that significant a stress on the body. George Parrott, coach of the Buffalo Chips local running club, reports that he has even run two sub-three-hour marathons six days apart.
But most runners fit in the former category. As Rich Hanna, director of the Cowtown Marathon and designer of The Bee's 18-week CIM training program, says: "You need to allow the microtears in your muscles to heal."
Dr. Meredith Bean, a Kaiser Permanente sports medicine specialist and medical director for the CIM, says marathoners should wait until their soreness is gone before resuming. It could be a week for experienced runners or as long as a month for those relatively new to the sport.
"One of the biggest mistakes I see in my clinic is that (runners) go back to their training too soon," Bean says. "They are on a high and want to train for the next one. They haven't fully recovered, and that's when they get overuse injuries."
Bean says the soreness resulting from microtears in the muscle are completely normal.
"Any type of exercise where you're either exerting your muscles more forcefully than normal or for a longer duration, it puts a lot of stress of the tiny muscle fibers and they get tears," she says. "That's actually part of the training process, too. As the muscle heals, it heals in response to that in a way it can tolerate more the next time out."
We asked three local running coaches to share what to expect in the days following today's CIM:
* Maureen Bartley, an ultramarathoner from Cool who coaches beginners to elites for Fleet Feet Sports in Sacramento:
"When you run a road marathon and you are out there for anywhere between 3 1/2 hours to 5 hours, your body is taking more of a beating than someone running at a faster, more efficient pace. Wear and tear occurs no matter how fast you are going, and depletion of essential nutrients along with microtears in the muscles due to dehydration and fatigue.
"It takes approximately three weeks for the body to repair itself completely, even though you should start feeling better and better within a couple of days. If this distance is unknown territory, you are in for a big surprise about how beat up you are going to feel even if speed was not a factor."
* George Parrott, coach for the Buffalo Chips:
"I would urge any marathon finisher to get out and walk the next day -- even get in some biking -- but nothing that has running-type impact. For the novice, this will prevent any additional damage to the muscles and promote the more active circulation of blood, which is the core to actual recovery and rebuilding.
"By the fourth or fifth day after, one should be able to get back out for very easy running on softer surfaces and, by the end of the second week, back to most of your prior training levels of three weeks before the actual marathon. Taking more than two weeks off can cost you almost all of the base endurance you spent all those weeks in building. So, if you want to use that last marathon as a step toward another, by the middle of the second week, you should be back to about 75 percent of your original base training."
* Chad Worthen, elite marathoner and coach of Nike Fleet Feet Racing team:
"For midpack runners, I would suggest taking the week off after the marathon. Some people are so sore they can't move, and some don't really get that sore. But no matter which camp you fall into, I really think that you need both the physical and mental break from the hard training that you put in prior to the marathon.
"If you don't take that break, then I think you will end up with a mental breakdown and loss of motivation. Don't get overexcited that you hit your marathon goals and rush into the next training plan, because then you can become injured."