Vali Tomescu and Yoshio Koide both coached Boulder runners who won Olympic marathon gold medals. Recovery was a key in their training and racing
Vali Tomescu and Yoshio Koide both coached Boulder runners who won Olympic marathon gold medals. Recovery was a key in their training and racing

With registration now open for the Memorial Day Bolder Boulder, many of us are in full training for the popular 10K, now less than two months away.

On a recent run at Boulder Reservoir, I was struck by the number of runners from the various training groups doing workouts on the dirt loop around the reservoir.

As I jogged with a couple of them on a cool down, I was asked some general questions about training. I told them that one mistake many of us often make is doing great workouts, but then not recovering from them. This can lead to tired legs, or even injury, and can keep us from racing our best on Memorial Day.

Sufficient recovery is one of the commonalities of the greats who have trained in Boulder over the years, from 1972 gold medalist Frank Shorter to 2000 gold medalist Naoko Takahashi to 2008 gold medalist Constantina Dita.

All three won marathon gold medals, and all three know the importance of recovery, which is what allows us to get the benefit from the hard workouts.

“In training, everything goes together,” Dita’s coach, Erie resident Vali Tomescu, told me when I asked his advice for those of you wanting to race well.

“Recovery is the most important part to the training. If you do a 30K at a hard pace (one of Dita’s key pre-Olympic workouts), and are not able to recover, you are more exposed to injury. You know that kids, babies, only grow when they are recovering. That is why they need so much sleep.

“Constantina always gets eight to nine hours a night. I remember hearing (women’s marathon world record holder) Paula (Radcliffe) saying she got 15 hours a night. I don’t know how many caught that, but there are people who understand the need for sleep and for recovery.”

Scott Larson, coach of the local No Boundaries training club, agrees. During an interview on Monday, he said:

“Recovery in a training program is a very important and often overlooked aspect of training. We tend to look at hard days and the long run as the only important factors that determine fitness. But without recovery days, the hard work that we put in will be wasted and we will not have a chance to consolidate.

“Rather than improve, we will find ourselves bogged down in a relentless cycle of fatigue and disappointing race results. Recovery days are the silence between the notes. By far the most common mistake runners make in beginning a training program is to do too much too soon and to run too hard on their easy days.”

What should your recovery be?

It can take many forms, Larson said, from an easy run to light cross training or a complete day of rest. “It is important to maintain a proper level of hydration on these easy days,” he added.

As your fitness level increases, you can do more on your recovery days.

During his elite years, Larson, a former University of Colorado All-American and a U.S. national marathon champ, would run an easy 10 miles in the morning followed by an easy six miles in the evening.

“I would never worry about how slow I was going,” said Larson. “The goal was always to be sufficiently rested for the next day’s workout.”

That is the kind of smarts that led Larson to a long international career that included his national championship and is the kind of knowledge that he brings to his training club.

One of the top international coaches ever has been Yoshio Koide, who brought several top Japanese runners to Boulder for high-altitude training camps over the years. One was the recently retired Naoko Takahashi, a historic runner who won the 2000 Sydney Olympic marathon and went on to become the first woman to break 2 hours, 20 minutes for the marathon. Unlike some of her countrywomen, Takahahsi would take a long break after a marathon in order to let her body recover from a heavy mileage load that could be as much as 200 miles a week.

And so whether you are running 20 or 200 miles a week, keep in mind the key principle of sufficient recovery.

As Tomescu puts it:

“You want my advice, for the athlete and the coach? Don’t care as much about your training as you care about your recovery. Because if your recovery is good, then your training will be good. Always.”