Post Marathon Recovery
Congratulations, you have completed your goal race! Now what? The best advice is to enjoy some well
deserved R & R! This advice applies to everyone, from those who felt great the whole race to those who
hit the wall and struggled to finish.
The marathon often leaves the body and the psyche hurting – the latter can cause people to push their
bodies before they have fully recovered. Here are a few examples of common mistakes following a
Race Scenario Post-Race Mistakes
You ran a strong race and felt like you had
‘more in the tank’ as you crossed the finish line.
You don’t feel like you need any time off and
want to run another marathon ASAP to improve
You hit the wall and had to walk/run to
complete the race.
You are mad/embarrassed and want to find
another race to redeem yourself.
You finished very close to your goal time or
Boston Qualifying time, but did not achieve it.
You immediately start planning the tweaks to
your next training cycle and want to start it
ASAP so you don’t “lose the base” you built
training for this marathon.
You developed an injury during the race. You start running again too soon without consulting a PT.
The race went well, but you are in significant
pain for the following week.
You continue to run and push through the pain
thinking ‘it will help loosen me up’.
The race went well and you seem to have
You continue with high mileage and intense
interval training since you are not hurting.
Perhaps you want to jump right back into your
training group/running club.
Elite runners typically limit themselves to 2 marathons a year due to the strain that the training and the
race imparts on the body. It is important to let the body recover to avoid injuries and maximize future
performances. It you are in a constant state of high mileage training, there is a strong likelihood of
burnout, overuse injuries, and a drop off in performance. This is especially true for beginners. As you
gain experience with high mileage, your body will adjust and become more resilient. But, even the most
experienced runners need to give themselves adequate recovery time.
The popular marathon coach Hal Higdon believes it takes a minimum of two to three weeks for the body
to recover from the strain of running 26 miles 385 yards. Marathon guru and coach Pete Pfitzinger
believes in taking one easy day for every mile of the race – so no hard running for 26 days. That does
not mean NO running, just no high mileage or high intensity training.
Many people worry about “losing” their fitness level with time off. However, studies have shown that
there is little reduction in fitness level (measured via VO2 Max) in the first two weeks off. The overall
benefit of recovery far outweighs any minute loss in fitness level. So, give your body and mind the break
it deserves – the time off will re-energize both!
Check out these links for helpful information about the importance of recovery after a marathon: