Back to Back Marathons, 2 Marathons in 2 Days …. Tips for a Successful Double!

I’ve ran two back to back marathons this year.  Yes, that’s 2 marathons in 2 days.  The first was the Mississippi Blues Marathon & First Light Marathon in January.  The second, just last weekend with the Kentucky Derby Marathon and Flying Pig Marathon.  Amazing or Stupid?  That is the question. 

impossible

Sometimes, I manage to over commit.  Sometimes, its not my fault.  The first time I did back to back days of big mileage was in September 2013 when Women’s Rock first came to Chicago.  That race was a mess.  They ended up changing the date without notifying participants.  I was then faced with a 1/2 marathon on Saturday & an organized 20 miler on Sunday.  I was vested & had paid lip service to both events.  I was hoping I wouldn’t die.  I didn’t.  And to be honest it was way easier than I had anticipated.  As a result, it spurred my confidence that big mileage, on consecutive days, was possible IF I did it correctly.  Myself & Nicki at Women’s Rock (Sept 2013).

Womens Rock w Nicki

From that day, I moved onto the Inaugural Dopey Challenge in January 2014.  That’s 4 straight days of running.  5K (THUR), 10K (FRI), half marathon (SAT) & full marathon on SUN.  I was hoping I wouldn’t die.  I didn’t.  As a result, it spurred my confidence that big mileage, on consecutive days, was possible IF I did it correctly.  My BFF Minnie Mouse & myself at the first ever Disney World 10K.  Inaugural Dopey Challenge 2014.

Minnie Mouse & Me

From the Dopey Challenge, I moved into my 4 for 40 challenge for my 40th birthday in April 2014.  My challenge.  My rules.  I wanted to run 4 marathons in 4 weeks for my 40th birthday.  It was kinda a big deal (to me) and ended up being one 50K and 3 marathons in 21 days.  I was hoping I wouldn’t die.  I didn’t.  As a result, it spurred my confidence that big mileage, on consecutive days/weeks, was possible IF I did it correctly.

BUT then life happened.  I ended moving to Indiana.  I gained 26#s, which I’ve been battling since summer 2014.  My plantar fasciitis took control of my life as I left my IL home, and with it my amazing chiropractors (Landgrebe Chiro in Tinley Park, IL).  Once I was settled in Indiana, I tried to get back on track with healthy eating, fitness & running.  I was facing down my first double marathon weekend in January 2015.  Same double as this year (Mississippi Blues & First Light) but I didn’t make it to the start line!  Why?  I, or should I say my new chiros & PTs, couldn’t get my PF under control.  By the time January 2015 rolled around, I could barely walk, let alone run 2 marathons in 2 days.  I’ve since found an amazing chiropractor at Optimum Performance in Ft Wayne, IN.   My PF is gone.  I’m totally pain free.

There’s the background on my build up over the last several years.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend running 2 marathons in 2 days but I did have some experience of big mileage on back to back days so it wasn’t an insane jump for me.  Or not as insane as some would think.  I wasn’t really nervous.  I was pretty sure I wouldn’t die.  And I didn’t.

If you are considering a back to back, whether it be 2 half marathons or 2 marathons, here are a few tips.

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Have fun with it.
  • Don’t over train.  I was way too serious the first time (when I was in the throws of PF).  I had a lot of high mileage days, back to back.  High mileage piled atop high mileage.  Let’s just say, I didn’t help anyone fix my PF.  And I never had the chance to even start the first race, let alone finish the second one.
  • Recovery is key.  Both during training and on race weekend.  I roll with “the stick” and on a foam roller.  I use a Recovery Drink after big runs/races.  I use Nighttime Recovery caplets when my legs feel heavy or sore.  I don’t shy away from an ice bath or cold pool.  I use compression during and after hard runs/races.  And I do try to get extra rest.  That means sleep.  Yes, sleep.  I take rest days after big runs and leading up to race days/weekends.  You can’t run a double marathon weekend if you are exhausted, hurt or hungry.  Take care of yourself!
  • Eat real food.  Part of fueling up for a double marathon weekend or recovering from one is about what you put in your body.  Dieting?  Wrong answer. You need to eat.  Proteins.  Fats (healthy fats).  Carbs.  Sugars.  If you are on a weight loss journey, marathoning is not for you.  I spend a lot of time fueling up and then feeding the machine after.  As a result, my weight is high but I’m healthy.  I can’t focus on losing weight and still make sure I’m fueled up and recovered.  True story.
  • Take care of your feet!!  Rotate shoes.  Wear good socks.  I prefer Injinji socks because they prevent blisters & the loss of toe nails.  I also slather on the Aquaphor BEFORE I put on my socks.  I use so much Aquaphor  that you might think I get it for free.  I don’t.  But it works and I love it.  Injinjis + Aquaphor = SUCCESS!
  • Fueling.  This is tricky!  Fueling for one marathon is hard!  Now do it correctly and be ready to run again on day 2!  I’ve have some stomach issues, in running and real life.  I finally went to the doc and got some stronger meds.  Imodium was not doing it for me.  Enough said.  But I’m now able to fuel properly during the first race without losing everything and being sick for hours (or more) afterward.  I also make sure to use my salt tabs if its hot and/or humid.  Then I go into recovery mode directly after the race (see above) to refuel & feed the machine for day 2. 
  • Fueling for day 2.  Plan on having extra fuel.  The first time, we were not prepared to deal with the hunger on day 2.  We took the normal amount of fuel that we would need for a marathon.  We almost starved.  We ate food from aid stations that we normally wouldn’t touch.  We ate food from bike support people.  We would have hurt someone for a cliff bar, and we almost did.  Smile
  • Pick your day 2 destination wisely.  We tend to go where our friends go and I suggest you do the same.  The more people you know racing, the better.  But if you are doing this solo, make sure the 2 races are in close proximity.  I’ve heard people flying from one race to another.  That’s not my reality.  Our first double had a 3.5 hour drive time between races.  That was almost too much.  This time it was under 2 hours and that was perfect.  Remember, you “might” be tired.  You don’t want to spend all day recovering in the car.
  • Forget what PR stands for and take it easy.  2 marathons in 2 days is a lot for a normal person.  Run easy on day 1.  Walk up the hills.  High five the kids.  Thank the volunteers.  Do NOT run fast.
  • Prepare for some initial stiffness on day 2.  Especially if day one is cold, wet, windy or hilly.  The conditions of day one have as much of an effect on your body as what YOU do during that race.  Start out slow on day 2, let your body loosen up on its own and you’ll be surprised how good you feel after 3 or 4 miles.  But still take it easy on day 2.  This is about endurance, not speed. You want to walk away smiling, not limping! 
  • Schedule a massage for 2-3 days post double.  You’ll need it & your body deserves it.  You have one body.  Respect it.
  • Rest post double.  I go into full rest mode.  I’m not a “streaker”.  It’s not for me or my body.  I value my rest days.  If I’m feeling sassy or antsy, I’ll swim or bike.  But really, it’s Thursday and my plan is to drink wine and watch tv tonight.  I have one objective & that’s to be healthy so I can keep running, swimming and biking.  As a result, I err on the side of caution and rest an extra day or 2 beyond what most consider normal.  But really, what the heck is normal?  2 marathons in 2 days probably is NOT considered normal. 
  • Frame of mind.  Lastly, if you think you can do it, then you can.  As with everything, be confident.  Know you can do it.

think you can

Have you ever ran a double half or double marathon weekend?  If so, share your tips for success! 

** Run Happy AND Healthy ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

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3 thoughts on “Back to Back Marathons, 2 Marathons in 2 Days …. Tips for a Successful Double!

  1. Beast mode! KDF and Flying Pig was my first double, although I’m also a Dopey Challenge Veteran. I agree with the tips. I ran a touch too fast on Day 1, but I’m not sure if it was the hills or the heat that got to me on day 2. Definitely was a much slower day, but I made a friend and that made all the difference in the world when it came to finishing.

  2. All you discuss and suggest makes sense. Perhaps the biggest factor that allows “mortal” runners to do back-2-back or even weekend-2-weekend marathons is the lower intensity you run them at. Certainly no one is going to run marathon at just less than threshold intensity (ca 85% HRmax fir mist mortals) and do another the next day, even if run far slower. But doing the first one at far tapered back intensity, is the important factor allows you to do the 2nd one next, contingent you have sufficient training for running marathon distance. In other words, your training you did may say you can run marathon at certain speed, but you opt to run it tapered back signidicnatly and with doing all thise wise “recovery” actions and other experiential tips you offer, becomes feasible to do 2nd marathon next day, albeit you probably run it far slower than even the tapered-back 1st day marathon. Someday we will have engage in discussion of what “recovery” is. Most think it is just myscle soreness defines when you recovered or not. But recovery transcends several phases…yes first 24-hrs a lit there you cover, but in grander scheme their are longer term scales it needs to be considered. One week, two weekks, one month or longer, before rebuilding base and starting to build towards another marathon training macrocycle. That’s more in reference to running marathons at your max potetntial intensity, but even thise running multiple marathons and back2back marathons over year or longer, eventually need to consider some extended break to totally recover, then re-start run training and rebuild from scratch. I call that “recalibrating” marathon-self!

  3. All great tips! I ran the New Year’s Double down here in the Dallas area and it was so much fun!! Definitely the ‘don’t take yourself too seriously’ part and also recovery is so important! Well done fellow Maniac!

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