If you’ve stumbled your way into this blog post, then it’s likely you’ve just completed a marathon.
Running 26.2 miles, whether it's your first or fiftieth, is an incredible achievement and deserves to be celebrated. Highly driven individuals, which runners tend to be, are not great at taking the time to actually acknowledge and celebrate what they’ve achieved.
Take Time Out
Now is the time to take a break.
“But I am the fittest I’ve ever been.”
You may well be, but you’ve put your body through an incredible amount of stress. You have dug incredible deep to finish that race, and you need to replenish your mental and physical reserves. This takes time.
Many people rush back into training too quickly, which will lead to injury and potentially burnout. Too many times, I’ve seen runners get back into training and then pay the price 3 months down the line.
Recovery is a process that can’t be sprinted through.
If you are smart, then you’ll be able to come back to training and push on.
Even if you didn’t get the race result you wanted, take some time to celebrate. Not only the marathon but the hard months of training that you’ve put in. Catch up with friends and family you might have neglected.
Post Marathon Blues
A few days post-marathon, you may start to feel a bit deflated. This is not surprising. You’ve pointed a lot of energy, both physical and emotional, into your marathon. Your life has been dominated by this event, and it’s been your one and only focus. And now it’s done.
Again, don’t chase that feeling of lowness away by replacing this race with something else. Let it sit around for a little bit.
If you allow yourself to feel a little blue, it’ll feel a lot easier.
Aid the recovery process
You can aid the recovery process by doing some of the following:
1. Don’t run. Let the body recover.
2. Some gentle walking around can help
3. Some light stretching, foam rolling of a VERY gentle massage later in the week after the marathon
4. Don’t take any medication to reduce inflammation
5. Eat foods like ginger and cherries. These are natural anti-inflammatories and will help the recovery process.
6. Running the legs under a cold shower can help relax them (you can do this the evening after the race)
Planning for the future
You will have some time on your hands now you’ve stopped training. It’s an excellent opportunity to reflect on you’re future plans.
Do you want to run another marathon? I’d definitely suggest not falling into the cycle of running 2 a year every year. The marathon takes so much out of your body, and you want to allow yourself to do something different.
We can look to work on other areas of your running. Perhaps that's mastering the 5km. Or running an ultra? Or improving that half marathon time? Maybe it's a cross country season? Think about mixing it up.
Did you have a bad race? This can certainly happen, and we’ll all have different definitions of what ‘bad’ means. That might be not running a PB. Or you may have had to drop out. I've experienced both in my running career, and they are painful experiences. I wanted to run and hide.
If your day didn’t go as you wanted, you could use some of this negativity to help fuel you.
Do you want to feel how you do now again? I imagine not. Do you need to train smarter? Maybe sacrifice a little more of your social life? Do you need help? Now might be the time to get some coaching support in place for your next race.
Write and Review
You don’t need to write things down, but I think you’ll find it really helps. Use this time to review what went well and not so well in this marathon cycle.
Start on the day itself. What worked and what didn’t. How were your nutrition and hydration? Race strategy? Pre Race Logistics? Mental Preparation?
Then look back at your training and think about the sessions that you did do. How were they? What about the sessions on the plan you skipped? Why did you not do them? Did you feel prepared for the race?
There’s no correct way to do this process, but just give yourself some time to do this process. It’ll be surprised what comes out. Then you can work with a coach (or on your own) to create actionable points.
Returning to training
Don't rush back into training. The time after a marathon is a great place to take your end of season break. If elite athletes can take time off from training (from 2 weeks to a month), then you can give yourself a bit of downtime.
I’d suggest 2 weeks of no running. In the first week after the marathon, you can do some swimming, gentle walking and maybe a leisurely cycle. Maybe try a yoga class, or do some light stretching and foam rolling.
Think about getting a Sports massage on the Thursday or Friday of this first week.
Let nature take care of the inflamed ligaments. The muscles have loads and loads of micro-tears in them after you abused them by running 26.2 miles. Let your body regroup
You could add some slightly longer cross-training sessions in that second week, and maybe a long walk.
Make sure that the first run is 20 to 30 minutes long at most. And keep it easy! Then slowly add running back in over the next few weeks.
We think it takes a day to recover for every mile you race. So it can take around 26 days to get over the marathon. I’ll often see that runners training seems to pick back up 20 plus days after the race. To begin with, don’t expect to be running that quickly.
Congratulations again on completing your 26.2 miles. And good luck with any future races. We’d love to be a part of that process here at Full Potential.