Marathon Recovery

By Maren Elliott

We've asked Maren Elliott to follow-up her inspiration post last week, The Final Miles, with a little insight into the recovery during the weeks after those final miles.  

The morning after finishing a marathon I wake up depressed – without fail.  It always seems so silly; I’ve accomplished something great so I should be elated.  Not to mention I’m free of long training runs, foam-rolling sessions, and painful massages.  But somehow the extra time and less regulated schedule doesn’t bring the relief I always anticipate.  I’m antsy, feel out of shape, and generally pretty grumpy.  The emotional recovery from a marathon is typically the hardest for me, but there is also the physical recovery.

Depending on the marathon I may be unable to walk or take stairs without grasping a hand-railing for fear that my legs will buckle and quit working.  Then there are those inexplicable marathons when I feel great the next day, like I could go for a run (and I usually desperately want to).  It can be hard to know exactly how to approach the recovery period especially when you feel out of sync physically and emotionally.

The general rule of thumb is to give yourself as many days to recover as miles you ran.  So for a marathon, you’d take 26 days for recovery.  There have been times when my legs needed twice that before I could even think about lacing up running shoes again.  And there have been times when I’m ready to run a week later.  In both cases the important thing to remember is to listen to your body and not force anything – it is different for everyone.

Taking walks and doing an easy bike ride in the first days after the marathon helps relieve the soreness a bit, and can provide some of the mental release I need in the absence of running.  Regardless of how long it takes, I constantly remind myself to “be nice to myself” during the awkward transition weeks after the marathon.  This sounds easy enough but can be hard when things feel off balance.  If you give yourself the time you need to recover and heal, the first run back will bring the endorphin rush you crave and all will feel right again.