JT, Mistress of Races Like A Girl, posted or twittered three things today that share a theme.

First, she noted that Joan Benoit won the Oklahoma City Memorial Half-Marathon in 1:21:57.

Second, she linked to a Running Times interview of Greg McMillan by Scott Douglas on the issue of training for Masters.

Third, she linked to a typically fine LetsRun “The Week That Was.”

Separately, Robert of Cowboy Hazel twittered with a link about a “Nike coach [who] says that 2 marathons in a month are okay, but one has to be slow,” to which I asked “What’s the point.”

In the LetsRun piece, there’s the following about Kara Goucher’s apparently brief consideration of running London six days after Boston:

Should Kara Goucher Have Run London?

LetsRun.com has few official corporate policies. One rule, however, that may be our 1st formally adopted rule is advice we always give first-time marathoners and even gave to Paula Radcliffe after her first one: “Marathons take a lot of time to recover from.” As a result, we think it’s really risky to try do more than two per year (and we’re glad to see Ryan Hall has officially adopted this as his rule as well – although we actually okayed his decision to run London last year). As a result, some might find be surprised that we were actually fascinated by the talk that Kara Goucher was considering running London just 6 days after her “jog” in Boston. Normally, we’d vilify someone for this idea but once we thought about it, we said, “She should do it.”

It would wreck her body no doubt. However, Goucher isn’t probably going to race for another two years as she wants to have a baby, so who cares if her body is temporarily wrecked running-wise? She has plenty of time to recover for her next race.

That being said, there is the belief that a super-humanesque “I’m gonna totally destroy my body” type effort is something that one never recovers from, so maybe it’s just as well that she didn’t do it. But in this day and age of big-time appearance fees, how cool would it have been if she just showed up at London and raced. We kind of wish she had done it but give her a Thumbs Up for even considering it.

Separately, Ryan Hall, the gentleman to the left with “HALL” on his bib, twittered after Boston, “Another early morning. Flying to LA for photo shoot. A day of pretendind to be an athlete. My legs are trashed! No running for 2 weeks.

I was taught the one-day-a-mile rule, i.e., you don’t run hard after a marathon until 26.21875 days after. In 2006, I ran a 5K 28 days after, but passed on a five-miler (I swore I’d go easy but knew I wouldn’t) two weeks out.

In the McMillan interview, he distinguishes among folks who start running when they are masters, those who ran when young and kind of fell out of it until they started up again when they were masters, and elites who continued to compete into mastersdom. (As the BroJos say on LetsRun, “45-year-old Colleen De Reuck ended up leading at several points in the Boston race. She ended up in a well-deserved 8th. 8th in Boston at the age of 45. That is insane.”)

Finally, the Benoit HM time. Her 1:21:27 is unimpressive. In the OT marathon, she ran 2:49:08, a US 50+ record. But she has a PR of 2:21:21, well faster than mine. Yet my 50+ time is, albeit less than a minute, faster. She also ran 17 very competitive marathons before she was 40 and has an HM PR of 1:08:34, over a minute faster than mine; but I have an HM some 3 minutes faster as a 51 year old.

I love Joannie, and her two performances in 1984 — the Olympic Trials and the Olympics — are the stuff of legend. At her peak she raced one or two marathons a year. Which brings us to Cal Ripken. Years ago, the Wall Street Journal did an article that wondered whether Ripken’s consecutive game streak hurt his career. By comparing him to other players at the start and end of their careers, it was pretty clear that the streak did hurt him. He was an outstanding player, but he would have been better, assuming he developed at the same rate as his comparables, if he had taken days off now and then.

What does this mean? A marathon is hard. It takes a lot out of you. I use Joannie because she is about my age and I can compare the numbers. She didn’t run that many marathons, but she still slowed more than I have.

It seems to me that to perform well in the short term, one needs a long build-up to and recovery after a marathon, so that the notion of multiple marathons close to one another, while perhaps having value in one’s completion tally, is contrary to performing well in those. And among the runners I know, none does more than two a year.

In the long-run, moreover, it seems that lots of marathons take their toll.

A caveat. I should note that the women’s 50+ world best in the marathon is 2:31:05, by Tatyana Pozdniakova. (Joannie is number 4 on the list.) But Pozdniakova’s (and the age-group’s) second and third fastest times were set one month apart. The male record in 2:19:29, by South African Titus Mamabolo.)

Separately, JT noted that the More Marathon was canceled because of the warm weather. She ran that race last year, but it is not her target race in 2009. But, she writes,

I didn’t make the More 2009 Marathon my goal marathon for this year. What a colossal disappointment that would have been. The fact that we can have a severe heat wave in late April convinces me that I need to select and register for a backup race every season.

Not bad advice. Chicago in 2007, New York in 1984 (when I DNFed because of the heat and planned to run Baltimore six weeks later but got injured in the interim), Boston in 1976.

And here’s Joannie in 2008: