finished my marathon… now what?

elyse running
Elyse takes on a journery and shares some best practices for when you have finished your marathon.

Rest, relax, recover and revel in your accomplishment! You have trained hard for the past four months, so it's time to let your body repair. This is often hard for many runners, as a marathon brings not only peak physical fitness, but a phenomenon called "runner's high," which makes you feel so good after a run that you can’t wait to run again.

Along with all of these wonderful feelings, post-marathon can also bring about feelings of depression. A lululemon run club guest recently came to me a couple of weeks after her first marathon and told me that she was feeling depressed. She asked if it was crazy to feel that way. The answer? Not at all. Post-marathon depression is very real and is often accompanied by a sense of loss. You spend four months training, you structure much of your life around your training, you look forward to race day, and then in a matter of hours, it is done.

Rest is vital. Your body needs a few weeks to repair itself and recover before you begin your next training cycle.

a game plan

For me, I set out a post-marathon game plan. This season, my race is the Philadelphia Marathon. After the marathon, I am taking five weeks off from hard training to allow my body to repair and recover. Besides lululemon run club, I will not be running, but will be replacing my hard runs with yoga classes, core work, and strength training to let my body recover and to lay a foundation for my next training cycle. In terms of beating post-marathon blues, I always host and cook Thanksgiving dinner (this year for 14) to give me something immediate to look forward to and focus on once my fall racing season is over.

after you cross the finish line

Once you cross the finish line, start rehydrating immediately. Before your post-run celebration beer or wine, make sure you have had plenty of water -- after all, that is what your body needs. Replenish yourself with some carbs and protein, stretch, and put on a layer of clothes over what you raced in for your walk back to the hotel to keep you warm.

the morning after

The morning after the race, jog 10-20 minutes to get your legs moving a little bit.

the next month

Following that, the next month should be about easing off of running to let your muscles repair. If you're going to run, take it very, very easy, don’t race, and don’t do speed workouts. I recommend cross training. While I pick-up yoga (and cooking), try a racquet sport or something different that keeps you moving, but not training at full capacity. This will not only be good for your body, but you will start your next season feeling fresh and eager to be running again, and will help you keep your post-race emotions in check.

how you spend your post-marathon time

How you spend your month post-marathon is important. As runners, we are sometimes greedy about our fitness, and we want to stay in peak form all year round. This is impossible to do, and trying will often lead to injuries and feeling of burnout.

Are you just starting to run? Read Elyse's other blog post about The Run Date!

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I never thought that people would get the post-marathon blues… but it makes total sense! So glad you wrote about this… the honolulu marathon is coming up here in hawaii, so this was the perfect blog to share with our community! Thanks Elyse!

Comment by Marisa — December 2, 2009 @ 10:21 am

I agree with Marisa – as a non-runner I had no idea that you have to consider what happens AFTER the marathon, too. I learned a lot from this post! Thank you Elyse.

Comment by Facebook User — December 2, 2009 @ 11:12 am

Great post Elyse! There’s lots of important points in there. I can definitely relate to the feelings of depression after periods of not running. It is very difficult sometimes when it becomes such a large part of your life and then you need to take a break for a bit, in order to keep you body together. The best thing to do is keep cross training with low impact sports like swimming and especially yoga. Those activities are also great to keep up when you are back in full swing training again.
Above all, you need to be able to relax. Most injuries happen when we are stressed out, either physically, mentally, or both. Learning how to relax and ride the ups and downs of your training without harsh personal criticisms will allow you to run better and stay injury free!
Happy Running!

Comment by Brian — December 4, 2009 @ 8:51 am

Thanks for this post. I was supposed to run my first half at Phila this year, but had to drop out 2 weeks before, because of an ankle injury and that became a knee issue that would have been aggravated even more if I had tried to just push through it. Thanks for reminding me that it’s OK to take it easy – rest and repair. I’ve had two weeks off running and see a definite difference in my knee – feeling much better!

Comment by Lizzie — December 6, 2009 @ 10:38 am

One of the best things about gaining running experience is knowing the difference between pain that is temporary and can be pushed through, and the different kind of pain that should be like bells going off that something is not right and you should stop. It is the most difficult thing in the world to make the decision not to run the race when you’ve put in so much hard work, but it could very well have allowed to you keep running all winter. Congrats on that, Lizzie. The next step is to look at how you are running and try to figure out why you were getting problems with your knee and ankle in the first place. Unless you change something about how you run, chances are the same problem will come back sooner or later.

Comment by Brian — December 7, 2009 @ 4:38 am

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