I'm on track to complete my first marathon in about 4 weeks following Hal Higdon Novice 1 training plan so I have one long run left before the gradual taper before the race. I also have been going to spin class twice a week to keep my cycling up because my other big race this summer will be a half ironman. I was feeling great up to about the point where the long runs started going longer than 13 miles or weekly distances are 20 - 30. Now my legs feel tight and weak in the joints. The average pace on short runs has decreased significatly. There is no specific area of pain, its just a feeling a dull aches from mid hamstring in the back to the side of my lower legs to my ankles. When I run it takes about a quarter to half mile to get going and then after the run things really tighten up. I've been fairly good about stretching, using a roller, and icing at times.
Summing it up on a scale 1-10 I'd say it's about a 3, consistant discomfort, at any give time and up to a 6 within the first 12 hours of finishing a run.
Is this acceptable pain for the peak period of marathon training? Any suggestions to help relieve or get through the pain/discomfort?
You may be doing your long runs too fast. Also your long run should be at most about half your total weekly mileage. The Novice 1 plan is set up that way as long as you are doing the prescribed distances during the week. After a long run you should be tired but any aches shouldn't be severe or long lasting. Ice baths immediately after the long run seem to help a lot of people. I have found that even a cold shower on the legs relieves the aches somewhat. Wait at least 24, preferably 48, hours before getting a massage.
Thanks for the tips. I am guilty of running faster than I should on the long runs. It has typically been 45 to 60 sec over my goal race pace. I feel good, get in a groove, and just keep going.
The main reason I'm looking for feedback is to know what people think is acceptable and what isn't for discomfort as you approach marathon distance for the first time. I assume there is some level of "growing pain" associated with even a gradual increase in mileage. Yes?
I feel good today and I have a 10 mile run planned for this afternoon and 20 this weekend. I'm going to work on pace control.
Based on your original comments, it sounds like you may be overtraining (overuse - essentially your muscles have not been able to recover properly between training sessions) because all of the built-up stress. Another possible reason, although I do not know if this is the case for you, is that you may have increased the mileage of your long run too quickly. Your long runs should actually make you faster at your short runs even if you run the long runs much slower because the long runs improve your overall running economy. I agree with lenzlaw that you may be running too fast for your long runs and that your long run should not exceed about 40-50% of your total mileage. Ice packs work great for me. I don't do static stretches but rather walk 1/2 mile after finishing my run to cool down, and after a long run (especially if I am a little sore) I will walk a longer distance... 2-3 miles.
Running should feel good to you. It sounds like your training method may be a little too aggressive for your body. You may be able to modify the scripted program (eliminate or shorten some of the runs to give your body a better chance to adapt). Rest/recovery is just as important for improving as is training. I used a generic training plan for my first year of training but have since abandoned them. The problem is that they don't take into account the fact that everyone's body is differerent and that everyone adapts differently to exercise. The key thing is to listen to your body. Someone like me that runs hard on more runs than not needs extra rest between those runs. Remember that your ultimate goal is to finish the marathon.
A little stiffness from a long run can occur on ocasion but that usually disappears after a decent warmup and should completely disappear within a few days. The fact that the pain is persistent could be a sign of a problem (likely that your body needs more time to recover). I had knee problems develop from a similar situation when training for my first marathon two years ago. In my case it was a combination of running my long runs too fast, increasing my long run mileage a little too fast, prior injury, and inexperience (I hadn't run much in over the previous year). Yes, I was able to run through my knee pain but after the marathon I had to take a full month off and build my mileage up again (from 0) very slowly. Since, I have only had some ocasional discomfort after long runs but that usually disappears a day or two afterward. For my long runs, I build up by about 1 mile a week on average but not necesarily week after week. For example, my long runs could be 11mi week 1, 13mi week 2, 12mi week 3, 2-8s on back-to-back days for week 4, 14mi week 5... then back to 12mi or so for week 6 before increasing again... and so on (not always increasing, and sometimes even completely eliminated)... but for me (and with rare exception) the day after every long run is an obligate rest day (no biking, nothing).