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How to Run Back to Back Marathons: Tips, Techniques and Recovery Steps

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For most of the people, training for a single marathon is quite enough. But then there are a few runners who desire something more, something that instigates adrenaline rush. This is when comes the back to back marathons where runners run two marathons in a weekend, four in a single month or at times four to five marathons on consecutive days. A few other runners opt for several-day-long ultramarathon events. 

The rising popularity of the marathon maniacs has demonstrated that these kinds of feats are definitely doable by a lot of runners. Of course, there's no problem in doing consecutive marathons unless and until you have a proper plan. Often runners who wish to run for these races wonder as to how they can stay without getting injured and how they can recover quickly for the next race. We have mentioned a few tips that would help you to perform your best and recover quickly after a race.

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Understanding How your Body Responds to Long Distance Racing 

To be honest, here, the number of people participating in back to back marathons is limited. Therefore, the studies on what effects it would have on the bodies of these runners are also limited. The good news here is that even though the studies might be limited in scope and size, they do offer some valuable insight in understanding how your body copes when you attempt to push the limits of long-distance endurance.

A study conducted in the year 2008 assessed the changes in the composition of the body of about ten men who were competing in a 17-day, 750-mile. Their changes in their body weight, hydration, fat mass and muscle mass were measured throughout the course of the gruelling race across Germany. Throughout the course of the race, all the men lost about nine pounds of fat and four and a half pounds of muscle. However, one thing worth noticing was the fact that there wasn't any significant change in their weight. The loss of fat and the muscles were made up by an increase in the total body water.  

The people researching about it suggested various explanations for this outcome. The muscle proteins that broke down because of the continuous pounding for so many days might have overloaded the kidneys. This could have led to the increase in the total percentage of body water. The other reason was that the body might have eaten the muscles doe extra nutrients and fuel and this lead to a shift in the levels of the hormone that is responsible for controlling water retention. The people conducting the study did claim that they didn't measure an essential element: the dietary intake of the marathon maniacs during the race. This might also have a significant impact on the response of the body. 

back to back marathon
Understand your body before signing for back to back marathon

Best Tips to Follow for Challenging Back to Back Marathons

Listed below are top tips that will help you train for the back to back marathons easily.

Tip #1 Cross-Training is the Way to Go 

When you are training for running two races in a row, it is essential that you adopt various methods of training such as cross training. Other activities other than running like swimming, yoga, cycling, all are wonderful options to give your body a break from the pounding before the second race and to keep your cardio up. Always stick to a regular routine after you are done with your race and swap out some of your run days with an extra day by doing something that you love. It could be swimming or biking around the countryside. 

yoga- cross training workout
Perform yoga for balance and stability while running

Tip #2 Recovery Must be Your Focus 

Running back to back marathons is truly a fun challenge. One of the biggest reasons why people opt for these races is because they get to enjoy the racing fun for two days while having to go through just one training cycle. If you manage to make it to the first finish line, you know that you have already worked hard enough and would be able to make it to the second one easily. The time that you have in between the weeks must be utilized to train at a slow pace. You could also do one long race and the other a mixed one. Your main focus should be to remain healthy.

Tip #3 Do Not Change Your Diet 

Understand that when you are training for running two races in one day or two races in a single month, it is better to stick with the same diet plan that you have been following. This wouldn’t be the right time to experiment with something new as you cannot be sure that it would benefit you. Stick with the pre-race nutrition plan that works best for your body.

Tip #4 Keep the Speed Workouts Short and Simple 

As this is the time when you are focusing mainly on your recovery, you must remember to keep the fast workouts short and sweet. Any kind of fartlek, tempo or interval training you completed before the first race would of course still be relevant. If you really do wish to go fast before the second race, you could consider cutting the normal workout in half so as to avoid injury and fatigue. 

If you are participating in two 5K or 10K then start with a quarter mile at a specific pace, gradually increase the miles and repeat them. So for 5K build 3 X half a mile whereas for 10 K 6X half a mile. This way you will build your speed. 

fartlek training
Stick to one workout plan

Tip #5 Sleep, Sleep, Sleep 

Sleep plays an essential role in maintaining the physical health of a person especially if you are marathon maniacs. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. Understand that your body is really tired and needs rest. You have run a really long race and you are going to be doing that again in a few days. So, sleep as much as you can. It would recharge your mind and muscles and thereby prepare you for the next round. 

Tip #6 Hydrate Yourself 

One of your strategies to run a marathon should be to hydrate yourself a much as you possibly can. People don't really realize how much running a marathon can dehydrate them. When you are running long-distance races, you are going to be sweating excessively and your body thereby is losing a lot of water. You might be stopping at every water point during the race and drinking enough water. 

You need to understand that it takes more than a day or more for your body to recover from the sweat or fluid that was lost during the race. This can be especially difficult for people who tend to lose their appetite for a few days after a hard race. No matter what, keep hydrating yourself from time to time for a quicker recovery. 

back to back marathon- hydration
Foods with good water content

Tip #7 Leave any Expectations Behind 

When you are running back to back marathons, it is better to free your mind and body from any kind of pressure. Most people stress about performing at their full potential and tend to miss out on enjoying the race. The next time you are going to your race, leave your GPS watch behind at home. Step at the start line with absolutely no expectations and by the time you make it to the finish line, you would be glad you took that decision. 

If something doesn’t go as it was supposed, you wouldn’t be as disappointed. With expectations comes hope and we aren’t saying that expecting something is a bad thing. It’s just that people stress so hard on winning the race that they forget why they started racing in the first place. Save yourself from the disappointment and guilt and enjoy the race while you can. You can always perform way better the next time. 

How to Recover Properly After a Race? 

To ensure that you’re optimally recovered after your first race, jump-starting the post-marathon recovery process immediately is pivotal. You could follow the following guide:

  • Eat a small snack or meal which contains a 4 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. However, if your body is capable of handling eating than a small meal, eat as much as you can. If you cannot eat after your race, try a healthy protein shake. 
  • As mentioned above, hydrating yourself is really crucial. Restore your hydration level right after the race. Don't forget to have 32 ounces of sports drink for faster recovery. Generally, your body wants the sugar to stimulate the insulin response.
  • Perform a quick cool down. If you’re a beginner or are feeling very sore, walk for 10-15 minutes. If you’re more experienced, this can be a very light jog for 10-15 minutes. Stretch major muscle groups and anything which you feel is sore or tight. 
  • Try taking an ice bath, sleep or get a massage. Do whatever you need to do to make your muscles feel better. 
  • Try rolling out on a foam roller or with the stick and stretch your muscles well.
  • Replenish the sodium content in your body. You can do this with sports drink, electrolytes or by eating salted almonds, nuts, whole wheat bread and much more. 
ice bath
Post marathon recovery steps- Ice bath

Finish Line

At first, it might definitely seem difficult but with continuous practice and proper workouts, you soon would be able to perform well at these back to back marathons. Keep trying and keep it slow. You would soon be able to see favourable results. Give your best for the first marathon, whereas enjoy and complete the second marathon, this way you would have a balance of both achieving your goals and fun.

Have you ever tried back to back marathons before? If yes, how was your experience? Do you wish to share any tips with the amateur runners? Feel free to do so in the comment section below. 

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