Dear runners of The Chicago Marathon,
I’m soooooo jealous! I want to run it with my friends. I want to be as ready as they are for this special race (well, special race TO ME).
Chicago is a great city, with beautiful panoramic views, and an amazing blend of classic and modern architecture and the race itself is a pleasure for the senses. What I’ve always loved most when I did run this race is the PEOPLE. The spectators made the race easier, more fun and, inevitably, would make me run faster.
My friends put in the miles necessary to achieve that 26.2. (Oh, that “point 2”!) I have to say, I never heard any complaints from them. I have not heard tales of their struggles. I didn’t see them breaking down, crying and complaining. I admire them. They are committed, they are fast, and still able to PR (Personal Record). Some of them have, or will, qualify for Boston (my dream or, rather, in my dreams!). All their hard work will pay off. Once they finish the race, once they cross the finish line with their bodies in spasm, they will have the biggest smile on their faces. They might feel the happy tears running down their cheeks. They get their medal and proudly wear it, until they get home and hang in amongst the other ones. That feeling of accomplishment is what we work so hard for. Even while writing I am feeling that joy; Their joy.
This is where my part comes in. To see and feel their sore muscles, bruised toes, that tightness all over – this is were I get the pleasure to help them feel the release of their tight spots. I’m forever amazed how a human body can run that far. Well, only humans. No other animal could keep up for that distance and at that pace.
Draw a cold bath and sink into it. This would always be the first time I would hear everyone complaining. Don’t walk in the bath tub with your feet first. It would turn you off. It would freeze your feet and all you’d think of is escaping the torture. Slide down into the water, butt-first. Stay for a little bit. Until the feel of stinging pain goes away. After, walk slowly with bare feet. Feel the rug or carpet. Put on compression socks for a faster recovery.
Get a foam roller and just lie on it. Place it down on the floor, vertically along your spine. Rest your head and lower back on it, and open up your arms to the sides to stretch the chest. Wait for a few minutes. (Now you can be slow. Now you don’t have to be timed. Just feel and enjoy). Move the foam roller horizontally and, again, lie on it with your mid back, arms behind your head. Lift your butt up off the floor, tighten up your abdominal muscles, and gently roll yourself up and down. Feel your spine getting longer. Don’t worry about the litle “crack” sounds – just nice and slow and gentle.
If you are able to go on your knees and do the classic Cat/Cow Pose, do so. And follow with a 30-second Child’s Pose. Relax and breathe through it. After this easy routine, put ice on the areas that hurt. Have a good, nutritious meal (ie. miso soup) and sleep.
Next, visit me and we will go from there. This is where the healing process starts. Stretches, slower and steady. Static stretches, not the dynamic ones as before the race. Now we take our sweet time to recover from the inevitable micro-injuries.
You runners have trained and performed hard. Now, you are coming off of the “runner’s high” and may suffer from POSTRUN DEPRESSION. Don’t fall into it. Just glide slowly through it with a smile. Through it, not into it; stay above it. Don’t dive deep and hide. Acknowledge this part as the training of your soul. Walking/limping into a mental recovery routine with soreness is disconcerting, but try to enjoy this part, too.
A healthy recovery with proper muscle therapy prepares our athletes for another journey; another plan for the next race, be it a marathon, a 5K, or a 100m sprint. All are hard-won accomplishments and your chances of future improvement depend as much on the care you take post-race as that which you take pre-race. If you are able to effectively recover and avoid injury, you’ll most certainly be able to move on towards your next labor of love.