Do's and Don'ts for Before and After Your Marathon

Racers walk to starting line
Racers walk to starting line. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images Sport

What you do the week before your marathon or half marathon and the week after can reduce your risk of injury and speed your recovery. Mike Silverman, a physical therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery gives this advice to walkers, runners and run/walkers who are tackling the marathon or half marathon.

The Week Before Your Marathon or Half Marathon

1. Don't try anything new. You should have been trying out your gear, clothing, anti-blister and anti-chafing preparations, hydration and energy snacks on your long training days.

2. Avoid any high-intensity workouts the week before your race.

3. Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is important for athletic performance. This can be a challenge if you are traveling to a race, so try to factor getting a good night's sleep into your race planning. More: Athletes, Sleep and Performance

4. Drink plenty of water. Keep yourself well-hydrated throughout the week.

5. Don't try anything new with your diet. More: Should You Carbo Load or Not?

6. You may be tempted to buy and try something new from the race expo, such as compression sleeves for your legs. It's always better to save anything new for the weeks after your big race. Silverman says there is some evidence that compression sleeves reduce lactate, but it is spotty. More: Compression Socks for Sports

Recovery After the Marathon or Half Marathon

1. Icing is good for minor pains and muscle soreness, Silverman said. But if you had a major injury such as pulling a hamstring, new evidence is that icing may not be beneficial.

Follow your doctor's advice.
More: To Ice or Not To Ice?
More: How to Ice Right

2. Don't go back and run the day after your race. Silverman says he often sees runners do this, but he does not think it is wise to run for most of the week after your race.

3. Do non-weight bearing activity such as exercise bike or extra-gentle stretching in the first few days after the race.

4. Massage should be only light and superficial. Don't go for a deep-tissue massage.

5. Start a reverse-taper five to six days after the marathon or half marathon. Your first run or walk should be only two miles. Then build back up to five miles and 10 miles, but slowly get back up to high mileage. More: Reverse Taper After a Half Marathon

Common Marathon Injuries

Silverman cites common marathon injuries he sees in his patients.

Runner's Knee: This is an irritation of the cartilage on the underside of the knee, with a proper name of chondromalacia patellae. It happens to young, healthy runners as well as bucket-list boomers. While surgery used to be a common treatment, it is now often treated by rest and physical therapy.

Plantar Fasciitis: You don't have to be a distance walker or runner to get plantar fasciitis foot pain, but Silverman says it seems to be more common with runners.

Posterior Tibial Tendonitis: This is pain on the inside of the foot and ankle. In distance racers, it may develop after an ankle sprain or simply as an overuse injury.

Treatment is often rest but may require a walking boot to allow full healing.

More: Common Marathon Injuries for Walkers


Nemet, D., et al, Effect of local cold-pack application on systemic anabolic and inflammatory response to sprint-interval training: a prospective comparative trial, Eur J Appl Physiol. Nov 2009; 107(4): 411–417. Published online Aug 4, 2009

Post WR. "Anterior Knee Pain: Diagnosis and Treatment" Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery December 2005 vol. 13 no. 8 534-543.

Beals TC, et al. "Posterior tendon insufficiency: diagnosis and treatment Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery, Mar 1999; 7: 112 - 118.

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