QUESTION: I ran my second half marathon last Sunday in 2:06. What should I do to prevent muscle stiffness at the end of the race, and soon after the race? My muscles are not as sore today, but still tight after warming up. The heating pad is my best friend right now. I don’t remember being this sore six months ago when I ran a previous half marathon.
HAL’S ANSWER: First, ditch that heating pad. To reduce swelling in the muscles, you should use cold not heat. For best results, fill your bathtub with cold water, climb in, then dump a couple of bags of ice into the tub on top of you to lower the temperature more. I know: AAAIIIIEEE! But runners who have the courage to take the plunge insist that ice baths are the route to quick recovery. As for why you might be more sore after this half marathon vs. the half six months before, there could be multiple reasons. One might be the course. A hilly course (Boston being a prime example) will cause more post-race muscle trauma than a flat course like Chicago. Weather also might be a factor, particularly cold weather. Consider also your fitness level. If “out of shape” for half marathon #2, that might offer a clue. Or consider that you might be in better shape, meaning you pushed yourself harder than before. It’s probably too late now, but there’s an entire chapter (Mile 27) in my recently republished book, Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, that tells you what to do after crossing the finish line and the minutes, hours and days after. You might want to consider that for your next race.