Post Marathon Foot Pain

How long does it take to recover from a marathon?

If you participated in NJ Marathon Sunday you probably have dried off your feet by now and are thinking about your next race.  How much racing is bad for my body you may be thinking? This is a great question posed in my office on a regular basis. The problem is that the answer is always, "It depends".   Everyone recovers at a different rate. Age, experience and current fitness level are large variables in the equation. We have all heard of a marathon runner who has run 100 marathons in a less than 10 years.  The flip side is there are runners who can only do one marathon a year without getting hurt.

Is there a magic formula? How much is too much? I think the first thing to think about is what is your goal? If you are just talking about finishing the marathons and not really having a time crunch, then feel free to do up to six a year but realize that having more than two quality runs in a year is very difficult. Now, for those of us who are addicted to the watch, "racing" a marathon is something that should not be done more than twice a year.  The reason is, it takes a minimum of 4 months to train effectively for a marathon.

Why do some people recover faster? Age and experience helps.  Your body has been there before, so it knows it will live. Veterans often have a post-race routine down that helps them recover. (Often this includes the anesthesia known as beer!) If your fitness level is high and your nutritional status is good, you will recover faster.

What can you do to hasten recovery? Walk a cool down after the race. Do not sit down immediately even though your legs are begging you to! Take a 15 to 20 minute walk and stretch gently. An ice bath is best, but very few people I know are that tough. A cool bath followed by stretching before you go to bed is helpful. A large amount of carbohydrates and water also helps. Hence the beer phenomenon! A massage a few days after the race will help you recover. More than anything, do not start training again until you are fully recovered. Many injuries occur due to too much, too soon, too fast and too fatigued syndrome!

So how much is too much? Again, the answer is always, "It depends." Listen to your body. Really listen and stop being stubborn or stupid! If you start training and you are exhausted, you are doing too much. If you are spending too much time in my office and less on the pavement, you are doing too much. The answer is really simple listen to your body and it will tell you how much is too much.

Now for those of you that raced Sunday and ran thru an injury.  What steps are you taking to better health?

If you developed blisters, it is not wise to pop your blisters until after you shower to prevent infection. Use a sterilized needle to pop two holes on opposite sides of the blister and leave the roof on. Lubricate the area with antibiotic ointment, and only cover them if you absolutely must. (Second Skin, Compeed or Tegaderm work best.) Leaving the blisters open and soaking in Epsom Salts also dries them out faster.

If you have black and blue toenails, drain them as soon as possible, and you may be able to save your toenails and avoid a lot of unnecessary pain.

Keep moving around as much as possible in the days after the marathon. Alternate hot and cold soaks, and get a massage.  Anti-inflammatory such as Aleve or Advil (as long as you are not allergic or have ulcers) will help ease your pain in the first post-marathon week. Getting a massage helps flush out all the waste products in your muscles. It may also be wise not to resume running until all of the soreness is gone from your legs. Use your judgment about when to resume running. Basically, if anything is swollen or bruised, or if you experience sharp pains when you resume running, stop!

If your symptoms don't improve in a week, seek medical advice.  I recommend taking it easy for a month after the marathon, so you can make sure any lingering tightness won't lead to an overuse injury when you ramp back up your running mileage. Good Luck.