The journey is over… for now. Kim and I crossed the finish line of the Honolulu Marathon after months of training. A huge thank you to our coach, Chris Heiusler, for all of his insight, guidance, and friendship. When we started our experience, the end seemed so far out of sight, yet suddenly it was over in a flash. So, now what? My regimented training schedule is complete, and I’m left feeling a little… empty.
It's not my first recovery rodeo (in fact, it’s my ninth), so I wanted to share my feelings on post-marathon recovery, what it’s like to deal with the post-race blues, and how to plan for what comes next.
Every time I complete a marathon distance, I know I need a couple of things – a bottomless mimosa brunch, NO stairs, and a recovery plan. Assuming you’ve done your training work, you should still be mobile in the days following the race, albeit a little sore and stiff. It is always a good idea to plan on no running for at least 5-7 days following the race. Your body needs ample time to repair and restore after the 26.2 miles that you just endured. It’s okay to participate in light activities like walking, swimming, biking, or a great yoga session, but stay away from any serious running.
Also, make sure your nutrition plan extends beyond the finish line. Hydration is vital (ignore my mimosa comment above 😉) and continue to eat healthy foods, targeting healthy fats and proteins. You’ve done all the carb loading before race day; now it’s time to transition away from pasta dinners to something like a nice cheeseburger with avocado (this is my top pick post-marathon, I crave it).
I would also suggest some self-care like a massage and a pedicure. It’s always a nice reward after a race, and it helps hasten the recovery process. Can’t afford a massage? Find that trusty foam roller and spend some time rollin’ it out! There’s always that slight discomfort from massaging the muscles after the race, but the increased blood flow is going to do wonders 🙌!
Singing the Post-Marathon Blues
It is entirely normal to feel down and even a little depressed after a marathon. You have spent the last 4-5 months training multiple days a week for one goal, and suddenly it all comes to an end. There is a void in your life and what was once a serious and a concrete sense of purpose – completing a marathon – is over.
One of the first things to realize is this feeling is only temporary. One of my mantras in life is the only constant in our lives is change. It is okay to miss your training routine, but hopefully, it has inspired you to make a significant fitness lifestyle change. After your much-needed recovery, create a plan to stay active, and I mean it! Flag a day on your calendar that you are going to start getting active again. If it isn’t a run, schedule a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) class or try a CrossFit class. You’re a proven athlete, and it is always good to diversify your workouts.
And, don’t forget to take the time to be proud of your accomplishment! If you spend time feeling blue, then you’re not reflecting on the remarkable physical endeavor that you’ve conquered. Spend some time sporting that medal and finisher shirt. It’s always great when you’re at the local coffee shop, and someone sees your shirt and gives you some extra love – soak it in, you deserve it! I still get called out when wearing my gear from almost ten years ago (I have a hard time letting go of things!).
26.2 – The Sequel
Marathoning isn’t for everyone, but I do feel that anyone can do it! If you’ve finished your first marathon and crossed it off your bucket list, another marathon may not be what you want (and that’s ok!). Luckily, the running world has a catalog of thousands of races with multiple distances – from the 1-miler all the way up to ultra-marathons (100+ miles, now that’s Crazytown to me 😂). There are a ton of great resources to help schedule your upcoming race calendar!
The most important thing is staying active! Fitness and healthy living are a lifestyle that needs continued practice, maintenance, and the occasional shake-up to keep things fresh. Challenge a group of friends to join you in a workout class or race event. Set up a weekly run group that ends at your local bar for a little social mixer. Run another marathon as a relay and get your running bestie, your husband or wife, your mom and dad, your children – heck, throw in the dog for good measure – and claim a 26.2 victory in another way.
Finishing a marathon is hard, grueling work. Finishing a marathon is time-consuming. Finishing a marathon is inspiring and life-changing. Let this finish line inspire your next journey, whatever it may be!