What to Do After You Finish a Marathon

Chicago Marathon Finisher
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

So you've just reached a long-term goal of completing a marathon. Congratulations! You may be wondering, "Now what?" The most important step after you've finished a marathon is to focus on your recovery. Your marathon recovery starts the moment you cross your finish line, so hopefully you've been taking good care of yourself, as well as celebrating your achievement.

After a week, your sore muscles and joints should be feeling better. It's normal to still feel sluggish and tired at this point, so listen to your body and make sure you get plenty of rest. You should also make sure you're eating a healthy diet with plenty of protein to help repair your muscles.

When Can I Run Again After My Marathon?

If you're still feeling pain a week post-marathon, you may need to see a physical therapist or sports doctor. Even if you're feeling completely recovered, you should take it easy for a few weeks. Your body is still repairing the damage from your training and the race. You can get back to running a day or two after the race, but don’t do any hard racing or intense workouts for 3-4 weeks.

How Much Should I Run?

Some people decide they want to take a break from running for one or several months before getting back to training. If you decide that you do want to continue training, do a "reverse taper" for two weeks post-marathon. During your marathon tapering period, you gradually cut back your mileage. Now's the time to gradually build it back up by doing the last two weeks of your marathon training schedule in reverse. So your two week post-marathon schedule might look something like this:

Day 1: Marathon day
Day 2: Rest or 20 minute run or walk
Day 3: 20 minute run or walk
Day 4: Rest or 30 minutes easy cross training
Day 5: 30 minute run
Day 6: Rest
Day 7: 30 minute run
Day 8: Rest or 30 minutes easy cross training
Day 9: 40 minute run
Day 10: 3-4 miles
Day 11: Rest or 30 minutes easy cross training
Day 12: 4-5 miles
Day 13: Rest
Day 14: 6-8 miles

Beat the Post-Marathon Blues

How's your post-marathon mental state? It's fairly common to feel a little disappointed or depressed after finishing a marathon, so don't be alarmed if you're feeling that way. You've finally reached a long-term goal, so it's normal to feel like you're lacking direction or motivation. The best way to cure the post-race blues is to set a new goal. Many first-time marathoners decide they want to do another one so they can work on improving their time or run on a different course. If you'd like to do another marathon, try to pick one that's at least six months away. That gives you enough time to recover – both mentally and physically – and take your training to the next level. Some people do run their next marathon much sooner, but they may be risking injury and burnout if they decide to do that.

If you're feeling burned out with marathon running or your plan was "one-and-done", you may want to think about a different type of challenge. Lots of marathoners switch to triathlons or half marathon training because they still want a significant goal, but they're looking for something that's a little easier on their bodies.

Or, you may decide you want to set a non-race-related goal, such as running three times a week or finding a running group to run with. Don't forget to celebrate your marathon accomplishment with a marathon keepsake, marathon jewelry, some new running clothes, or other reward.

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