Monday, 13 May 2013

Recovering after a marathon - thoughts

There is no doubt a marathon is a hell of an endurance run, for almost every runner.  Those 26.2 miles equals 42,000 metres, 3000 - 4000 calories and perhaps 50,000 steps in just a few hours.  For ordinary runners like me, this puts an immense strain on feet, legs, joints and so on.  Our skin can rub and get blistered; it can also get sunburnt.  Our knee and ankle joints take a real pounding for the duration.

Last years' marathon I was stiff and achy for a few days.  Plus psychologically I felt very low during the day after.  I suffered a bit.

This year was different.  I was 13 minutes faster; even though I felt less well prepared.  Last year is was cold, windy and wet.  This year it was warm and sunny.

He's a few further thoughts:


Yes, obvious you might think but I have not found this to be straight forward.  In the first 3 or 4 days after the marathon I found it hard to sleep properly.  You'd think I or any other 51 year old would be shattered after a marathon and be sleeping like a lamb for ages.  

Although I was undeniably tired in the physical sense, I was restless for a few nights afterwards.  I mentioned this to Pete, a neighbour who also runs.  He seemed to recognise this and suggested it could be connected with all those hormones and endorphins still buzzing around; that sounds very plausible.


While elite runners may think little of running a marathon well under 3 hours each weekend and have a few daily runs of 10 - 20 miles in between, us ordinary runners may need some recovery time.  This is where I think it's important to get the balance right between remaining active but allowing any stiff muscles  or pounded joints to recover for a bit.  Even without running for 2 or 3 weeks is not the end of the world at all - could be a healthy thing to do, depending on where you're at.  There are numerous joints, muscles, tendons, bits of skin etc that can all be suffering a little too much 'wear and tear' - these might need some special care.

Myself I felt only slightly stiff the next day and I was following the following day.  Three days later I had a one mile slow run and then yesterday I ran a little faster for 30 minutes just to see how I felt.   All was fine and there's no reason why I can't resume normal running now.

Rejuvenating - food!

Just as getting a well balanced diet is important in the training, so too is giving some thought to what you'll eat and drink in the minutes, hours and days after a race.  

Through any race the chances are any of us will be a bit dehydrated.  From my observations at the MK marathon this may have applied to a number who were, sadly, close to collapse at the end, or near to it. Has to be said they were being well looked after by the race marshals and the St John's Ambulance personnel.  That could be a combination of being simply exhausted but it could also be dehydration brought about by the unusually warm weather that day.  So yes, rehydrating yourself is something to do but don't go over the top - it can be dangerous to drink too much too soon.  Gradual cooling down and rehydration is the key.

I had a banana and I had prepared a bottle of Cherry Active juice (click here for my previous review) which I believe helped my early recovery.  I made sure I had a glass of this two or three times a day for the first few days afterwards.

As usual I eat lots of fruit, making sure there was a good variety, including whole fruits and smoothies.  This supports the body deal with free radicals and the immediate damage that might be caused at cellular level.

Otherwise I ate freely and enjoyed it!  I probably consumed far more than normal but this is okay in getting the necessary proteins and carbohydrates needed to rebuild.  Even now a week later, while I know I can carry on running fine, my body is repairing itself still and perhaps deserves a little "slack" to allow that to happen.  As much as I might outwardly deny that being 51 years old is anywhere near being "middle age", the reality is things do take a little longer to heal than they did 10 years ago.

Mental health

Take a moment to check you're okay after a long endurance race; perhaps ask yourself each day and check it out with someone else too.  Easy to enjoy the natural Runner's High but not everyone will get this and it might be inter-mingled with disappointment or regret.  

In running where we push ourselves physically, in doing so we are also throwing in all kinds of endorphins and hormones and highs and lows into the mix.  There is no set reaction.  Look out for each other in the days afterwards.  Unexpectedly I felt really low in last year's marathon and this year was completely different.

In any race there are often runner's wearing tee-shirts with messages like "this is for you, Mum" or for some charity.  I remember seeing someone running in memory of their young baby.  Each person will have their own story and again it cannot be underestimated how intense those feelings can be for some. Again the support of others can be valuable, making all the difference.

A week later

I am still re-living the marathon in my mind; still enjoying it.  Yes it was tough going during the last hour but I loved it!  

I'm planning to ease off running for the summer, sort of "ticking over"  This will involve doing my favourite 7.5 hilly run each week together with an easy after-work run with one or two colleagues.  I am wanting to start clocking up some more miles on the bike (having yet to reach 100 miles for the year so far!).

Hope that helps....

.....that's my little round-up of recovering from a marathon.  Can potentially be a mixed picture for some, others may breeze through.  Take time to recover well, you deserve it.

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