How long does it take to recover from a one hundred mile run? As with many things running, it depends. This post applies to not only 100 mile runs but any endurance challenge.
There are a lot of factors that go into recovery time from any endurance event. Recovery can be as short as 3 days or as long as 3 weeks. That being said, there are things which make it go in one direction or the other.
In my opinion experience is the biggest factor in the length of recovery. The more 100’s you’ve done the more familiar your body is with recovering from them. You teach your body how to rebuild after being strained in that way.
Injury is also going to play a big role in your recovery. If you were injured before the race and went into it without being fully healed, you should allow more time for recovery. Same on the other end, if you were injured during the race, it is obviously going to take you longer to recover.
The type of terrain can impact our ability to recover from a run. Running up and down a mountain takes some people longer to recover from, for others it is running flat for 100 miles that takes longer. If you run up and down, you are able to use different muscle groups throughout the run. This allows some recovery during the run. I’ve heard many times running a flat 100 is harder than a mountain 100 because a flat run uses the same muscle group the entire time.
Extreme heat or cold make it more difficult to recover from a run. You have to work twice as hard to maintain your internal body temperature in high or low temperatures under normal circumstances. Adding in running for twenty-four hours or more and you can easily triple or quadruple the energy output required. The more you have depleted your body, the longer it takes to recover.
Food lifestyle (I don’t like the word diet) plays a role as well. Your body needs the right nutrients to get back to homeostasis. If you don’t fuel your body well before and after your run, it can’t repair the muscles and tendons you have relied on during your event. Surviving on Oreo’s and potato chips during the run is fine, but before and after are another matter entirely. There are foods that have anti-inflammatory properties which can speed recovery up.
Preparation, as in training, is key in running a 100 and not just to give you the best possible chance of finishing. It also gives you the ability to recover well. It goes back to teaching your body how to recover and rebuild the muscles. If you have completed all of your back to back long runs and run the type of terrain for your race, your body knows what to do.
It doesn’t matter if it takes you three days or three weeks. Take the time you need to recover or you’ll be back on bedrest healing an overuse injury. Sleep in, eat well, and be active at a comfortable level.