First things first, you’ve completed a marathon! Woohoo, congratulations, it’s a major achievement and definitely one worth celebrating!
Before you start the celebrations though it’s important to think about how you’re going to aid your recovery after the race. Generally it takes your body 2-3 weeks to recover from a marathon and what you do in the stages after the race is just as important as what you’ve done leading up to it. Of course, recovery will vary for each runner. A seasoned marathon runner for example is more likely to recovery more quickly than someone who just completed their first 26.2
Recovery after a marathon starts as soon as you cross that finish line. Drink something as soon as you can and eat a banana or something you’re offered as soon as you’re over the line. As hard as it may be, fight the urge to immediately collapse in a heap on the floor – don’t sit down! A walk to meet friends/family or back to your hotel or car will be good for you and will prevent you from seizing up immediately.
Once you’re home, put your feet up and as soon as you can stomach eating get some fuel down you. Make sure there’s carbs and protein in there to start replenishing those depleted glycogen stores and aid muscle recovery. Something along the lines of a chicken pasta dish is ideal. Of course, now is the time to treat yourself to a pudding too, you’ve earned it! Listen to your body and give it what it craves, this is its way of telling you what it needs!
Running a marathon is a huge stress on your body and after the race you are more likely to be susceptible to injury and infection as a result of that stress as well as depleted glycogen stores and dehydration. Make sure you get plenty of rest and eat healthy, balanced meals to keep yourself as healthy as possible. Think hearty, wholesome dinners, vitamin c and early nights!
Now let’s talk about DOMs! Many people suggest an ice bath to ease muscle soreness but speaking from my own experience I don’t see it as the be all and end all. I’d recommend doing some light exercise to ease DOMs within the first few days after a marathon. This could be a gentle 30 minute walk, a slow swim or even a gentle, short bike ride to loosen up the legs. Yoga is always beneficial too. Hydration is key as well. Drink little and often after the race until you’re rehydrated (hello clear wee!) and this will help to ease muscle aches and pains by flushing out the lactic acid. A massage within a couple of days of the race can help to ease muscle soreness too.
Post marathon blues are inevitable and trust me, they are real! My advice for beating the blues is to focus on something which isn’t running to give yourself a mental break. Now is the time to try something new that you couldn’t do before because of marathon training. Once you’ve recovered, set yourself some new and exciting running goals!
In terms of returning to training, ease yourself back in to it and most importantly listen to your body. Try not to put pressure on yourself to get back to it before you’re ready. Try some easy pace runs to get back in to things and remember, easy pace means easy pace! Foam roll and look after yourself.
Enjoy the recovery time, wear your medal to work and make sure everyone knows what a running superstar you are!!