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Take some rest after a marathon

Brom Hoban

In the days following an event like the Austin Marathon, runners typically turn their attention to recovering from the ordeal. There's a great sense of accomplishment in finishing a marathon, but the 26.2-mile race takes a toll on the body, and a period of rebuilding is needed to help avoid injury and staleness.

Studies have shown that muscle cell damage persists for up to 30 days after a marathon. That means that even after three or four days, when the post-race soreness is gone, there is still recovery taking place, and the body is vulnerable to injury if pushed.

There are a number of steps runners can take to avoid getting injured during this period. For example, use ice to massage sore muscles. Elite athletes like New York City Marathon champions Meb Keflezighi and Paula Radcliffe make a routine of taking ice baths following hard workouts, not just marathons. Ice baths aside, there are some things you can do to recover properly.

Here are a few suggestions many running experts agree upon:

Don't plan on racing for 21 to 30 days following the marathon.

Get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy diet, with a focus on complex carbohydrates and lean protein.

Ease back into training. Do short easy runs of a few miles or so to loosen up and enhance circulation, thereby speeding the recovery process.

Avoid launching into a new training plan too quickly. Make sure there are no lingering trouble spots — muscles or tendons that hurt — that could develop into injuries.

Some runners follow post-marathon suggestions like these and some do not.

Austin's Marc Bergman ran back-to-back marathons in Jackson, Miss., on Jan. 8 and Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 9. He ran both in under three hours (2:56:26 and 2:58:30). Then, little more than a month later, he set a personal best (2:49:20), placing 17th at the Austin Marathon.

"I'm on a journey to run a marathon in all 50 states, and I decided to hit two marathons in one weekend," says Bergman. "It made sense to try to get both marathons done, since the cities are only a four-hour drive from one another. I've done four marathons in the past 10 weeks, and got progressively faster in each one."

"I've been running for 18 years, and dealt with a variety of running injuries over that time," says Bergman. "One knee injury plagued me for six years before it finally healed."

Runner Keith Pierce tends to play it by the book after a marathon. Pierce, coming off his Austin Marathon victory, says he is gradually getting over the soreness and getting back to a little running.

"My quads and hamstrings are a bit sore right now. I think that's pretty typical for most marathoners," says Pierce. "I usually try to take the week after a marathon completely off, and the following week I'll just do some easy runs. I just go by feel as I get back into training. To guard against overtraining and injury, it's probably a good idea to hold off racing for a month. Mentally, you'll know when you are ready to race again."