Come on, admit it. You know you wanna ask me why in the world I’d run 2 marathons 7 days apart. It’s okay – people ask me all the time.
Honestly, the only answer I have is that I did it for the experience. I wanted to know — not so much if I could do it, but rather — what it would feel like to try. I’ve known all along and made peace with the fact that this could all end with me not finishing one or both races. That doesn’t bother me at all. I simply wanted to be able to say that I tried and had an experience — for better or for worse.
From an endurance coach’s perspective, I knew immediately that the most critical time in this whole insane adventure would be the week between the 2 races — as soon as I crossed the finish line of Marine Corps Marathon, the clock was ticking. There would be no week-long couch-sitting food binge. Nope, instead of entering Satisfaction City, sighing with relief and celebrating the completion of my work, I was right back into it, in recovery mode. The moment the race was over, it was crunch time again. No rest for the weary and all that.
So I decided to document what it takes to recover from a marathon in one week — or at least what I did. Each day, I did a quick journal entry of what my recovery entailed for each day. Perhaps most controversial, I went au naturale — relying solely on my body’s own healing process. I used only movement, nutrition, hydration, rest, massage, Epsom salt and a dip in the hot tub to help the process along.
Yes, it was a risky move. But I wanted to see if my body could do it, on its own, without my interference, numbing the pain or slowing my body’s natural inflammation response. Talk about testing the body — 2 marathons and no Advil.
But this log isn’t just a documentation of my recovery process. Just like this whole journey, it became something that was so different from what I expected. When I decided to do these races, I expected a physical challenge. I expected to spend the week between them in a race against time to recover and be race ready. I didn’t expect that this process would completely overhaul my relationship with myself.
Now only a day away from the NYC Marathon, I’m packing my stuff and heading for the train station. I don’t know what Sunday will bring but I plan to meet it head on.
Day 1: Monday 10/31
An hour-long post-marathon yin practice to start the day — the more active I am with my body, the less optional my yoga practice becomes. In all honesty, sometimes all I wanna do after a marathon is lie around … today was one of those days. But I know that after 26.2 miles of repetitive movement, I need to unwind the madness or my body will feel off for days. So today, I began the process of unloading the weight of all those Marine Corps Marathon miles from yesterday so that my body can reopen to be ready for this Sunday’s New York City Marathon. It wasn’t pretty – I didn’t expect it to be. But I’ve learned to be patient with my body and it’s own natural healing process. This has been the single most important key to my running success.
Day 2: Tuesday 11/1
I hit the pool this morning for some water running and swimming to shake out some of the residual tightness in my quads, hip flexors and spine. Last week, I made the decision to not take any anti-inflammatories in the 7 days between these 2 marathons because I felt strongly about allowing my body’s own natural healing process to work it’s magic. So I honestly expected to feel worse today – only 2 days out from Marine Corps Marathon. But once again, I’m in awe of my body’s ability to self-heal. In the past, I’ve been impatient and eager to interfere with the process. But now, I’m just trusting my body to do its thing. I’ve got absolute faith in its strength and its intelligence and I’m putting my money where my mouth is. Instead of forcing, I’m learning to listen. I’ve taken the time to truly understand and accept this amazing body that I’ve been given. I’m done with shortcuts, band-aids and trying to “push through”. My days of demanding more than my body is willing to give are over. I respect it – for everything that it is and everything it isn’t – and I’m certain that this is why it continues to give me so many strong and happy miles.
Day 3: Wednesday 11/2
Today, I felt like running. So I laced up for an easy 4-mile shake-out run. I was equal parts nervous and excited to see how it would feel to run again just 3 days after @marinecorpsmarathon but (drumroll please) it felt great, like REALLY great, almost oddly great. I was expecting to feel some achiness or resistance or something but all I got was a whole lotta awesome. Seriously, my legs feel so strong and super solid – it felt effortless. Honestly, I’m not sure why I find this to still be so shocking – clearly my body knows what it’s doing when it comes to recovery and healing. Trusting myself enough to let go to this extreme feels unnatural and uncomfortable for me – but every time I do, I find another layer of strength I had no idea that I had. I now get it – if you don’t have the courage to trust, you’ll never know what you’re capable of.
After my shake-out run, it was a Hot Tub WOD for me — which (in case you were wondering) involves … well, sitting in a hot tub and chatting with one of your besties (in my case, a certain @crossfityogigrl). During our conversation, I realized something. Before Marine Corps Marathon this past Sunday, I was certain that I’d be dreading what’s to come at New York City Marathon all week. Let’s just be real here, even when I’m trained well (and only running 1 marathon) it’s still not EASY to run 26.2 miles. Throughout my running career, my body has become more and more capable of handling the mileage but the challenge in my head has always been the bigger hurdle. Running marathons is exhausting – mentally, spiritually and physically. Every mile strips another layer away until all you’re left with at the finish line is the truest and barest version of yourself. There’s no where to hide out there. It’s really intense. It wipes you out. Having a reasonable amount of confidence that I can physically run 2 marathons in 7 days is one thing. The wild card here has been whether I not I can recover mentally and get focused enough to fight the fight that’s still ahead of me. After depleting my spiritual energy this past Sunday, I expected to dread what’s coming this weekend. But, you know what, I don’t. I welcome it. I have never felt more ready for anything in my life.
Day 4: Thursday 11/3
Today’s recovery involved a Thai Massage from my lovely and talented friend Nahla — magic hands I tell you. After she worked on me, she brought me some Yogi Tea and this was the message: “In the beginning is you, in the middle is you and in the end is you.” It gave me chills. You see, I’ve accomplished a lot in my life, the past few years in particular. I’m very proud of that and frequently pat myself on the back. But I’ll admit that there have been many times when I questioned how much longer I’d be able to keep getting stronger – I am aging after all. Then again, maybe I’m not actually getting stronger – maybe, just maybe, I’m simply redefining what it means to be strong. Or perhaps it’s not a matter of acquiring strength but rather a process of uncovering the strength I already have. Because the truth is, it’s been here all along. I’ve just never tested it until now. I’ve spent the better part of my life too scared to step far enough outside of comfort zone to see what I’m really made of. But, little by little, over the years I’ve peeled back the layers of fear. I didn’t become this person – I’ve always been her. I’ve never not been this strong.
Day 5: Friday 11/4
All week long since Marine Corps Marathon, I’ve been craving lots of protein, veggies and fat. This morning (right on cue), the cravings started to switch over to carbs. I guess my body has decided that it’s repaired enough and is now ready to start storing energy away for Sunday’s marathon. With less than 2 days to go until NYC Marathon, I’m feeling ready. No matter what happens on Sunday, I’ve already gained more from this experience than I could’ve ever imagined. Yes, running has taught me so much over the past 11 years but even so it’s extremely difficult to quantify how much just the past 5 days have changed me. I expected to learn and grow; I did not expect to be transformed. By letting go of all the stuff I thought I needed to get through this, I discovered that I am enough. And thru the simple act of letting go of the person I thought I should be, I’ve stepped into person I was born to be.
Hi Alison–Just letting you know I dropped by to see what you were up to these days. Congrats! What a great season it’s been for you. Cheers from NC.