Thursday, 3 May 2012

Recovering after a marathon

Remember to cool down after the finish line dash!

Following my marathon on Sunday, I have learnt about a few things I wish I had known before.  Now I'm thinking that the training schedules that are around for long distance races should not stop at the race day but include a few tips about what to expect after you've ran your marathon (or half marathon, or ultra marathon).

The day after the race, I did my blog post in the morning (feeling a bit stiff) and then started to feel really low.  That had me reading up on a few things which I have summarised here.  I hope it might be of use, including those fellow runners in the MK Marathon:

Cool down

Once crossing the finish line, the most natural thing to do is stop running and go "flop".  Anyone crossing the line at 26.2 miles is probably exhausted and pushed near to the limit and the temptation is to savour the moment and maybe watch a few other runners come in and add to their congratulations.  Instead it is best to continue slowly running, or jogging and then walking.  This gives the body an opportunity to move some of that lactic acid away from the muscles to lower the feelings of soreness afterwards.  That clever Race Director had arranged the finish area in the MK Dons stadium in a way that the runners had to continue around two thirds of the pitch to collect our goodie bags and exit to the meeting area.  In my ignorance, I walked along with the other runners but that was certainly better than doing nothing.

Having a massage is a good thing to do and these were on offer but I declined (£5 for 10 minutes!).

Start re hydrating but don't over do it.  Water is okay.  Even better is a drink to replace those electrolytes - choices include fruit juices or sports drinks (such as Zero High 5 in dis-solvable tablet form).

The next few days

Accept that you have pushed yourself and you might be feeling sore.  Resist the temptation to do anything if it hurts.  When you do start to run again, start with a gentle run or a jog.  Make an extra effort to eat good wholesome food; I think fruit and muesli is wonderful - plenty of antioxidants and carbohydrates.  If you're really sore, consider a physiotherapist for sports related massage.  As I am not very experienced in running these long distances, I gather the best thing is to build up again to that distance but obviously it will take less time compared to the original training.

Sleep well

Allow time for extra sleep in the days following your race - perhaps you'll need extra sleep for a week afterwards.  Don't skimp on this - allow your body and mind to repair and rejuvenate itself.

Mental health - be mindful

This really took me by surprise.  Naturally I enjoyed the Runner's High from completing the marathon and that's a perfectly natural.  For me it lasted into the next day but then I felt as if I had really bounced over into the other side - a murky feeling of being depressed and mentally weary.   That was quite a shock for me and having surfed the internet, this appears to be a common thing.  The nearest I have felt to this is after an all night bike ride which I have simply explained away as being tired and a bit grumpy (me, grumpy, really? Gosh.).

It depends on your own circumstances but for myself, I know now I need to alert my family and those around me in advance next time.  Happily that feeling of being so low lasted about 24 hours and now I am back to normal.   


  1. Hi,
    I have a quick question about your blog, do you think you could email me?