Whether this is your first race or 25th, you cannot hide from fatigue. Because you are increasing your mileage, week after week, your body will start to pay the price. Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Derek M. Hansen, states that there are three types of fatigue you must be aware of when running - neuromuscular, metabolic, and neuroendocrine. All three types of fatigue stem from over-training and lack of recovery time between long runs.
Neuromuscular fatigue applies to runners performing speed workouts. Running too many intense speed drills without enough recovery time will result in this type of fatigue. Muscle fibers and nerve cells break down after a hard training session. Because of this damage, it is imperative to allow yourself to recover and rest. The amount of recovery time between workouts is extremely important and will only be discovered by finding out what works best for you.
Metabolic fatigue is different in that a hard run creates the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles which, if not given enough time to disperse, will result in slower muscle contraction and run times. Lactic acid buildup occurs during hard, fast runs. Metabolic fatigue can also affect the fat and glucose levels used to fuel your muscles.
Hansen goes on to point out that continued stress to your body from running too hard and for too long, can result in changes in your hormonal system. Neuroendocrine fatigue results in everything from poor running performance to irritability, persistent increased heart rate, poor appetite, loss of sleep, weight loss and emotional fluctuations. This type of fatigue can be hard to pinpoint because there are no immediate external symptoms.
You would think that the logical solution to overcoming running fatigue is proper rest and downtime. However, considering the competitive nature of long distance runners, the answer can be obscured. Especially if you maintain a Damn-It-I’m-Going-To-Do-This-Come-Hell-Or-High-Water attitude. You must consider that while your body will accomplish some amazing things, you need to respect its needs for recovery and recuperation. Ignoring this fact, more than likely, will result in injuries and/or a poor marathon race performance.
Respect the physical demands that you are placing on your body and mind. If you allow your body to be healthy, happy, and well rested, I guarantee that your marathon day race experience will be a joyful one!