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Recover—When Can I Run (and Race) Again?

gr-marathon-2016-blog-images-398x296_runEd Kornoelje DO
Metro Health Sports Medicine

Way to go! You will be finishing (hopefully!) a half or full marathon and may wonder what to do next. We are up to RECOVER from our EAT/DRINK/RUN/RECOVER list. Here are a few pointers:

Some rest from heavy training is needed after any race—the longer the race the longer the rest. While there are no specific guidelines that have been scientifically verified, some suggest one day of “rest” for each mile run—13 days if you run the half marathon and 26 the full. Again—this is rest from heavy training. I believe that a reasonable approach is 3-5 days of complete rest, followed by 20-30 minutes of light cardio work (running, cycling or swimming) 2-3 times during the first week of recovery. This is called active rest. Push-ups, sit-ups, and light weight training are OK too. Rolling and massage therapy are also good ideas.

If you are feeling good at this point (7-10 days out from the race), Susan S. Paul, MS from Runner’s World suggests doing a “reverse taper” by repeating your taper weeks in reverse order, gradually increasing the distance of your runs to close out the first post-race month. Keep the intensity level at 60-80% of max heart rate during these runs.

It is not unusual to have some muscle or bone pain after a race. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) may actually make you feel more sore several days after the race. This is due to microscopic muscle tissue damage—the better condition you are in going into the event the less likely this is to occur. This should improve over the next few days, and go away. If pain localizes to one area, or doesn’t go away after 7-10 days, consider seeing a sports medicine physician. If you have severe pain, or the pain is getting worse, consider seeing the physician sooner.

One way to assess how your recovery is going is by monitoring your resting heart rate (RHR). This is best measured by taking your HR early in the morning just after waking up in the weeks leading up to the race. If while you are performing you recovery runs your RHR is returning to pre-race levels, your recovery is on target. If it is staying elevated, your intensity is likely too great. This is also a good way to monitor your pre-race training as well—if you notice you RHR going up as you train, you are not allowing your body enough time to recover between hard workouts.

What about racing? After a marathon 3 months is appropriate (before running another long race—probably a 10 miler or longer). Muscle regeneration continues to occur for many weeks after an event like this. Racing too quickly can damage muscles that are still healing, causing pain, limiting performance, and setting you up for other injuries. Racing a shorter race (5K/10K) is OK as part of your recovery.

I know that a number of you have run Chicago, Detroit, or perhaps Twin Cities (BQ’ers you know who you are) in the last two weeks and are considering running the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon. If so, slow down!! Run easy. Take walk breaks. It can be done, but there will be a lot of wear and tear having run two marathons in the span of two or three weeks. Be prepared to “actively rest” (see above) a bit longer than if you had done just one.

There are many places to find us if needed. We have locations with sports med doctors all over town—check us out at for more information. We are also seeing patients at the Metro Health Sports Medicine Center inside the Spartan Stores YMCA at the Metro Health Village. Call 252-7778 for more information or to schedule an appointment. And don’t forget about Injury Wise at Gazelle Sports Grand Rapids every Wednesday night from 6-8 PM. These are brief one on one sessions open to active individuals of all ages and sports. Contact Gazelle for more information.

Be active!


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Edwin T. Kornoelje, DO


Sports Medicine