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 can’t figure out what’s going on. After running the Boston Marathon, I felt great. I actually ran 12 miles the weekend later and felt tired but good. In the weeks following, my overall training intensity has fallen way below where it was leading up to Boston. Last week I hit a wall. All of the sudden, running became really hard. I can’t train hard any more. I just ran Boston at a 7:29 pace, but now I can’t hold even 7:30 pace for 2 miles. I’ve tried taking a few days off. My coach cut back on my training overall, but nothing has helped. I’ve been eating good, sleeping good, and the weirdest thing is that I don’t feel any different in my biking or swimming. Yesterday, I failed to hit my target times on what was supposed to be a speed workout. Have you heard of this happening before?
Yes, I have. In a marathon, you totally drain the glycogen from your legs. Especially the running muscles, which is why you may have a bit of a punch left in your biking and swimming muscles. Your fuel tank is at zero. For some people a week of easy running allows them to bounce back. But some subjects in studies at Athens University were still glycogen-depleted a month later. This is why I offer a 5-week marathon recovery program: to slow people down. If you try coming back too fast (your 12-miler a week later), you actually delay recovery.
But in your case, I suspect a compounding factor, less easy for the scientists to measure. You just came back from a marathon where spectators were killed and injured. Part of your problem may be an understandable depression. Your body is still grieving, even if your brain has not yet picked up all of the signals. You probably need to kick way back for a while – tell your coach you need some down time. In other words, quit training. Run if you must, but not too many miles, and not too fast. Give yourself time to heal.