Advice on 'dead legs syndrome'

Hello all,

I wasn't sure where to put this thread as I'm not really injured, so it was a toss-up between posting here or the Training forum. Basically I think I've overdone my prep for my first marathon a little bit, in that I've not built in enough Days Off/Recovery days for the last month. I was out on a planned 20 miler yesterday and I had to stop at 16.5 miles, cos my legs had just gone completely. I felt fine within myself but my legs just wouldn't turn over - Id been like that since about mile 8 or 9, had tried to run through it but to no avail.

Question is what to do now? I've got just under 10 weeks til marathon day, so do I just take a week or so off? I've done one 19 miler as my max distance thus far, and I'd planned to do a couple of 20ish milers before the big day. But the way my legs are at present I really don't know what to do for the best - anyone had anything similar before, and if so what did you do to get you through it?

If poss I'm desperate to still do the marathon as I'm raising money for our local Cancer Hospital where my brother is staying, so I've got a major incentive to do it - that's why I've been working so hard in training, but in hindsight I think I've overdone it - so any help re what to do now would be most welcome.



  • I think we need a bit more information.................

    How has your food intake been?  Do you use a sports drink/gels/jelly babies etc on your long runs?

    How many rest days do you have a week and do you actually rest on them?

    Have you been finding your training schedule hard, moderate or easy?

    Is this your first marathon?  How many other races have you done and what distances?

    What's your planned marathon pace and what pace were you running your long run at?

    Don't panic.  Even if you need to take a few days off you're still well on the way to the start line and I'm sure with some more information we can give you some sensible advice.

  • LS21LS21 ✭✭✭

    Hello and thanks for the reply. Right then, a bit more info:

    Food intake is pretty good I think. I've been eating enough (I think), and my diet is generally very good so I'm fine re that I believe. I use SIS drinks and gels on my runs and seem fine energy-wise - it's just my legs (hamstrings and glutes) that hurt like hell, and just don't want to work!

    Rest days - this may part of the problem! Usually 2 per week, but I've had a tendency to go out for a very steady 4 or 5 miler on one of them.

    My training shedule is hard yes - I got it off Smart Coach on here, and I selected the 'Hard' option which in hindsight was a bit daft. I was thinking if I trained hard and then tapered off I'd be able to do the marathon ok. Having said that I've found the runs to be ok and I do feel fine in myself (not tired or anything really) - it's just my legs that are struggling, and only in this last week or so. Being honest I've done some of my easy runs at too quick a pace too.

    Yes it's my first marathon. I've not done any actual races for a while, but I do run a lot as a matter of course. I only used to run for say an hour though at a fast pace (fast for me!) - so the change in pace/distance has taken some adjustments, but I thought I'd got it ok really (I've been on a slower but longer plan since before Xmas really). I have ran 4 half-marathons previously too, but none for a couple of years.

    Planned marathon pace is circa 8'40ish to 9'00 miles. Many of my previous long runs were too quick too - not much slower than marathon pace. Yesterday I was running at about 10'00 per mile, but that slowed dramatically to nearer 12'00 for the last 2 miles or so.

     In my view I think I've ran my long runs too quick (i.e. - often pretty much at anticipated marathon pace) and I've not left enough rest/recovery between long runs. It's just what to do now that concerns me - I've still only done 1 x 19 miler - ideally I'd like to get another 2 in before the race, but I'm unsure if it will be counter-productive bearing in mind how my legs are at present.

    Sorry for the long post - just trying to give as much info as poss! Cheers

  • What Mister W said, really.  Are you after 'just finishing' the race, or 'going for a time'?  I did a marathon a couple of years back where, as a result of injury, I never managed further than 15-miles on a long run, never ran more than 2-3 times a week, and ran only 5-miles in the 3-weeks before the race.  (I wasn't 'particularly' fit at the time either).

    Got round ok(-ish).  Wasn't easy - but it's do-able if you go steady.  Maybe consider a 20-min run/5-min walk strategy (at least for the first half - see how you go).  Overall, I'd take a week off and rest your legs.

  • I think you have pretty much answered your own question. 

    I find when I battle on runs (when my calves are unbearably sore) that it is normally because I need to cut back for a day or so.  Perhaps you are just doing too much too soon? 

  • LS21LS21 ✭✭✭

    Yeah cheers people I thought I'd answered my own question too! It was more the 'what to do now' bit I'm concerned about really, and whether it was wise (or not!) to still try and do 2 x 20 milers prior to the marathon. I think I did do too much too soon yes, but luckily I've been able to identify it whilst I've still got a bit of time to play with I guess.

    I was originally hoping to break 4 hours (I've done a half in 1:40 before) so I thought that was a realistic target, but to be honest time isn't important in the bigger picture - I just need to finish to get the money in I've been promised for sponsorship, so I think I'll have to let my pride and competitive edge take a back seat this time!

  • I think you are right.  You're running this marathon for all the right reasons.  Don't let the time factor over shadow what you are doing.  I would take a week out and then go back to it (steadily) you have put in the work and you will be fine.
  • when is the marathon? sorry if you've said - i can't see it but that could be me being hopeless!! image

    i'm doing my first mara and my schedule only has one 20m run and one 18m one. so far the most i have done is 16. my mara is 27th april.

    as the others have said, you can def get round if you are happy not to worry about the time and you never know the pace might come together on the day as well.

    have a rest then get back to training and keep 2 rest days from now on. 

    hope that helps and good luck.image
  • With 10 weeks till your marathon you've got more than enough time to step back for a week or two to allow your legs (and everything else) time to recover a bit then build back up to a couple of slow 20 milers at either end of April.

  • I think you have got plenty of time to take a bit of a rest and still get in a few 20s.  You have still got 7 quality weeks to train in. A few days off and then ease back in. You could miss out the 19's and jump up to 20 but make sure you factor in a few drop down weeks or you will tire out again.

    Make sure you start off your long runs slowwww then try the 3/1 approach. i.e. do the last quarter a little bit faster and closer to race pace. If you do the first quarter REALLY gently then you will last better and find the last part a lot easier. I used to use a HR monitor and force myself to stay UNDER 70% MHR for the first hour as otherwise I always took off too fast and ended up shattered.  

    I would agree with the 2 days rest. I have had to do that myself as the 6 days a week running ended with a bang as I caught a killer dose of flu and ended up in bed for a week and no running for over 2!  Not great.

     I would also say is that it is normal at this stage in a marathon training programme to be knackerd, find the runs hard, be demoralised or come down with some niggle or injury.  It has happened to me every single time and from what I hear, I am not alone. So rest assured you are on track.  

    If you have been training with your long runs quite fast and racing round your shorter runs then it could just be you ran out of glycogen and your body hasn't adjusted to using more fat in the mix.   On the day itself I am sure you will have more gels/fuel around than in training so try not to panic and think that the same thing will happen.

      Although it does sound a  bit 'wallish' to me.  i.e. you are tired but okay then boom - knackered and feel like legs have turned to lead and you are carrying a 10tonne backpack for good measure.   If this is how you felt then it's about recovery and fuel as much as about training. You need to think of your legs as being like a car and work out what you can do and how to run to stop the fuel tank drying up. 

  • Look at all that fabulous advice.  Aren't the forumites wonderful image

    Train easy............... race hard! 

  • PS you say you are all right energyish but your legs won't turn over - that is the very definition of running out of energy. No point in having energetic arms  - it's the muscles that are doing the work that need to be fueled and have energy left.  Which is part of the point of long slow runs. To teach those specific muscles to eek out their energy efficiently and burn more fat and spare your glycogen.  Fat burns slow which is why you managed to keep going only much much slower than you usually would. 

    Why not re-do your training schedule making it moderate rather than hard. You should still be able to do lots and lots of long runs but cut down on hard mid week sessions.  If this is your first marathon I would hope that speedwork is scarce in your schedule.

  • LS21LS21 ✭✭✭

    Agree with M.ister.W - thanks for all your help re this, it really is appreciated!

     For info my marathon is mid-May (17th I think) and I'm going to give myself a week or so of proper recovery over this next few days. I had entered a half this weekend but I think I'm going to skip that now cos I know I'll run it balls-out and be back to square one again! I've also just ordered a Garmin Forerunner so I can gauge my pace exactly and make sure I run slowly enough.

    On the energy thing - yes I see what you mean. All I was trying to get across is that I felt ok in myself really, i.e. - it wasn't like I felt wobbly or that I really needed to get calories inside me type thing. So I don't think diet is the issue as such - it's more the doing too much and at too quick a pace without building in enough recovery. So Training Plan amended and we'll have another try!

    Thanks once again for all the help though - it's great to be able to call on experienced people who've done this, and to tap into your advice - it's very re-assuring and most welcome - cheers! 

  • I know I'll run it balls-out

    lol - the picture that conjures image

  • LS21LS21 ✭✭✭

    Ooops! I didn't think of that!!

    **Note to self - Must buy tighter fitting shorts**

  • As you are doing this for charity I think you have answered your own question as to how you should run the actual race.

    You said you would like to beat 4 hours.
    Whilst given your half marathon times this should be achievable, you should see this as your wish target (Plan A).

    Sensibly you say you may drop down to a realistic target (Plan B) of just finishing in a respectable time.

    You should then have a back up target (Plan C) of just finishing anyhow. Pride and charity money motivation will usually see that you achieve this target at least.

    By all means, if you feel fit and rareing to go on race day, start out with Plan A in mind but do feel prepared to drop to Plan B or even C if things go wrong during the race.

  • popsiderpopsider ✭✭✭

    Sounds like the preparation is going well to me - problems on a long run are nothing to worry about - I'd just have an easy (not total rest) week - a sports massage would be a good idea too but I probably wouldn't get round to booking one.   Being knackered at this phase of training is fine.

  • sports massage def a good idea.

    i've just been for mine. have indulged in one every 2 weeks for last 10 weeks of mara trainng.

    it helps disperse the lactic acid as well as 'loosening' the muscles.

    really helps with recovery.

    and it feels nice image

    (except when it hurts!) 

  • LS21, read your post and smiled.  I've been following Smart Coach for a 10K since January.  I chose Very Hard (even dafter!).  Although I stuck to the schedule distance and session wise I've also done a few of the sessions a bit faster than I should.   Like you I found the runs Ok, and not tired in myself.  This week and last the schedule upped to 5 runs a week - 4 in 4 days including a long speed session.  This has just finished me off.  Went out today and although my lungs were fine and my heart rate low, my legs just wouldn't turn over fast enough.  And my performance on hills was a joke.  Just decided that I'd overcooked the training and needed to back off when I came across your thread.  Funnily enough I posted a similar thread to yours last night.

    Lets hope the rest works for us.


  • LS21LS21 ✭✭✭

    Hello all,

    I've not been online for a few days and completely missed Scuba Runner's post - yes I think we have done the same thing!!

    Anyway, just to give you an update on this - since my last post I've bought a Garmin 305 and quickly realised I'd pretty much ran all my runs too quickly, especially the long run on a weekend. I was going about 30-45 seconds per mile too quick, so I've cut back on pace quite a bit. I've also had a Sports Massage and have another booked for next week, as my hamstrings are very tight and that seems to have helped.

    I did another 19 miler on Sunday (in the snow!) and felt great for 14 miles - then the legs started aching, and the last 3 miles were very hard. It's right at the top of my hamstrings/into my glutes where I really struggle, but I at least finished my run this time and I actually feel ok again now. So I think I'm on the right track, but am still full of utter fear and trepidation about the actual race itself - I keep telling myself I'll be ok on the day, so we'll see image

    Cheers for all the advice though - at least I'm a bit more on track now than I was 2 weeks ago.

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