Life After Boston: What Happens to Your Body After Running a Marathon?

Life After Boston: What Happens to Your Body After Running a Marathon?
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It’s been 21 days since the Boston Marathon and I am finally beginning to recognize my own legs. I also recognize the absurdity of counting days after Boston.

When you spend so much effort and focus on one single thing, though, it’s normal to be numbering your days “before” and “after,” don’t you think?

Many runners experience post-race blues after training for and finishing a big event. Let me tell you how I nip this phenomenon in the bud: I always line up more stuff to train for before I’m even done with the “big” one.

That is how, a few months ago, I found myself signed up for my first Ironman. So now I’m officially:

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To be honest, I am currently questioning the sanity of this decision. It’s too soon! Too soon after Boston, which was a hard marathon training cycle, a tough race, and just a very emotional experience overall. And it’s just too soon, given my experience: this is only my fourth year in triathlon and even though I’ve completed four half-Ironman events and eight or nine short-distance ones, right now I am overwhelmed at the thought of basically racing all day long, double the longest I’ve ever raced.

To put it mildly, I really, really don’t feel like running another marathon in the next few months.

But selective amnesia is a real thing and I have faith that it will kick in, sooner or later!

For now, I have taken the first step towards moving on from the Boston Marathon:

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

That’s right, I decided to not spend a gazillion dollars on one of those official (and very sleek-looking, I might add) shadow boxes that MarathonFoto was offering up at the Expo, and make my own instead. I think it represents my marathon experience perfectly: It didn’t turn out quite as planned and it isn’t perfect — but I love it anyway!

What’s next for me?

First, a little sprint-distance triathlon to kick off tri season this coming Sunday. Considering the swim is 3/4 mile, the bike is 16 and the run is 5 miles, the event falls somewhere between Sprint and Olympic distance, which suits me just fine. Last year, I learned the hard way how difficult it is to switch from marathon mode to Sprint-distance 5K-mode in just a month.

The good news is, my legs are starting to feel better and my feet are almost better (I’ve been doing lots of strengthening exercises and massaging the plantar fascia and all that wonderful stuff… and by now my fellow soccer moms and dads are used to seeing me waddle on barefoot on the side of the field during games). The bad news is, I’ve only had three weeks of riding and swimming after a long break, so both those things are nowhere near prime for me right now.

Like my coach said, it will be fine, as long as you adjust your expectations.

In other words, let’s do this for fun and not worry about placing or even racing. Well, knowing myself, I will probably end up trying my hardest anyway: gotta do what you gotta do to earn that post-race beer!

The good news is, I have so many friends doing this race that I won’t be alone in my suffering. Here’s to a fun week and an even funner weekend to come!

MARATHON

What happens after a marathon?

No matter how much we enjoy the endorphins and feelings of accomplishment after we’re done, let’s face it, marathons are hard. So what happens to our bodies after a marathon? The reactions described below are based on personal experience, as well as reading and hearing from other runners share theirs. They are all perfectly normal and to be expected.

  • Night after the marathon: many people have trouble falling asleep, despite feeling very, very tired. One reason for this is elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol as a result of putting your body through… well, the stress of running a marathon.
  • Soreness. Legs may begin tightening up and cramping during or immediately after the race, but DOMS – delayed onset muscle soreness – typically kicks in the day after the race and is worst over the next two to three days. Stairs are best climbed and descended sideways :-)
  • Swelling. The body must rebuild all those muscle fibers you tore during the race – and that often causes your legs to retain water. If you notice that your skinny jeans feel tighter than usual, this could be one reason why. Chrissie Wellington has described this in detail in her book, A Life Without Limits.
  • Weight gain. This might start as early as your taper, especially if you carbo-load before the race (as most of us do). It is perfectly normal to gain a few pounds during this time and the assumption is that they will naturally come off after the race — but not immediately after, as your body will like retain fluids to fight post-race inflammation (see “swelling”).
  • Elevated body temperature. Speaking of fighting inflammation, this may cause you to have a mild fever over the next few nights, and your legs might be warm to the touch.
  • Weakened immune system. As the body is busy repairing torn muscle fibers, the immune system weakens and you might be more susceptible to getting sick.
  • Post-race blues. That feeling of emptiness and aimlessness after your big race – it’s no joke. Many of us fight this by signing up for another – be it a marathon, or a shorter race, or even something more challenging. It gives purpose to your recovery and, as soon as you feel ready for a new training cycle to begin, you now have a new big goal to strive for. Onwards and upwards!

Did I miss anything? How did you feel after your latest big race?

10 Unexpected Ways Running Has Changed Your Life (and you love it)

10 Unexpected Ways Running Has Changed Your Life (and you love it)
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Whether you have recently taken up running, are considering it, or have been a runner for a few years now, you probably are well aware of its benefits. It might be making you huff and puff, and you might be asking yourself “Why am I doing this” repeatedly, but stick with it long enough, and you’ll find yourself with more energy, a healthier body, a healthier mind, less weight (if that is the goal), better-fitting clothes… the list goes on.

But somewhere down the miles, chances are you have also discovered that running has changed your life in ways you didn’t quite expect. All the new friends you’ve made, for example: who knew you could meet someone in your mid-30s and not even two runs later, you are discussing bathroom habits or spilling your guts to each other? (The latter: not literally, I hope!)

Below are 10 ways running has changed my life over the past 20-some years — and I love it! And since I’m hardly a special snowflake that enjoys the special benefits of running all by herself, I dare say these are probably ways running has or will change your life, too — and I hope you love it just as much as I do.

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1. Your body is no longer your shell. It is your engine. Instead of seeing all its flaws when you look in the mirror, you see a body that works for you to enjoy a healthy lifestyle — and for that, you love and respect it.

2. Drinks with friends increasingly begin to mean sipping an electrolyte beverage at 5 a.m. before or during your run. Or coffee and bagels after you’re done.

3. You no longer scream and run when you hear the word “carbohydrate.” Speaking of bagels… or oatmeal, or pancakes. Rather than avoiding the “evil” carbs, you load on them before a long run, or use them to replenish your reserves after.

4. In fact, you no longer eat and drink. You fuel and hydrate.

5. You have recently bought your first bulk-size tub of Vaseline. Or this weird deodorant-type thing you had no clue existed before — or at the very least would have expected to belong in a totally different type of store — called Body Glide. Buy the largest size available, or you’ll find yourself in need of a new one much too soon.

6. Previously random-looking decimal numbers like 6.2, 13.1 and 26.2 suddenly mean a whole lot. You wear them on t-shirts and trucker hats, and proudly display them on your car’s bumper.

7. Upon joining the 13.1 or 26.2 bumper sticker club, you suddenly begin to see them everywhere. Then a miracle happens: you begin to form wordless bonds on the road. A friendly wave, a thumbs up, a smile: when was the last time you ever showed this type of kindness to another driver?

8. You sleep in on weekdays and wake up at dark o’clock on the weekend for a long run or race. And you love it, because you when you open Facebook at 5 a.m. on Saturday, all your runner friends are already online!

9. You find it harder to make small talk at parties — until somehow, luckily, you bump into another runner. But how can you spot the runners in a crowd of strangers? Wearing a 26.2 or 13.1 necklace helps… or look for chiseled calf muscles and runner tan. (You know the saying, right? “How do you know someone runs marathons? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you!”)

10. In fact, you increasingly find yourself at fewer and fewer partiers — unless they are the “pasta” kind.

[tweetthis]No matter the details, few will deny that running makes us see ourselves and the world around us differently.[/tweetthis]

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And what a beautiful world it is, isn’t it?

Thursday Ramblings: the Boston Marathon Qualifier Tee

Thursday Ramblings: the Boston Marathon Qualifier Tee
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Boston Marathon registration closed on September 23. As expected, there are more applicants than spots available.

For some runners — how many thousands, we don’t know yet, but it will be thousands — this will have a heartbreaking ending. After months of training and hard work, after running a BQ time, they will not make it into the race.

I don’t want in any way to diminish the work of the fastest of the fast — those who have no trouble running a marathon 20 minutes or more below their BQ standard. Obviously, hard work and hundreds of miles a month go into running a sub-3 hr 26.2.

I keep thinking, though, that the people who qualified with the smallest margins have worked even harder to qualify. Those are the 10-minute/ mile runners who had to bring their pace down to 9 min/ mile; the 9-minute milers who had to run a 8:15 average (yup, that’s me!). Often, the “squeakers” are the ones who have to bring down their pace the most.

Sub-3 marathoners must have the genetics to run at that level, in addition to putting in the work. Running a 3:35, on the other hand, is doable for most anyone who is willing to put in the hard work and be consistent.

Do these runners deserve to run Boston next year? Of course they do. In an ideal world, the BAA would open up more spots and accommodate all qualified applicants.

Since that is not the case, though, here’s another (admittedly, extremely #firstworldproblem) question:

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Adidas has already launched its 2016 Boston Marathon Qualifier collection. Note the use of the word “qualifier” — not finisher, not in training, not runner.

If one qualified for the race but did not get in, should they order and wear that shirt?

This is the question on my mind today, as I still wait to hear from BAA.

[tweetthis]If you qualified for the @bostonmarathon but didn’t get in, would you wear this T? #runchat #bostonmarathon[/tweetthis]