You have just done something incredible. Your body has carried you a distance of 26.2 miles in one go. You're exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time, and are feeling a profound sense of accomplishment. As you should! After all, you have been training diligently for months to get to this very moment, and now that you're here...what's next? After accomplishing something amazing, sometimes we can feel kinda lost, but that's the most important time to stay on track. We'd like to share some advice on how to prevent post-marathon blues and how to keep that marathon motivation flowing in your post-race life with some advice from our very own CAC Marathon Queen Julie Speck.
"I think it is almost as important to plan for post-race as it is for race day! " says Speck, who should know a thing or two - she has completed 18 marathons and 7 Ironman triathlons! "Finishing a goal can leave you feeling a bit empty," she admits, but has some key tips on how to approach your post-race experience.
Take a breather to avoid burnout.
"I recommend runners take a short time off. Maybe it is a day or a week, but not forever!" Post race is a great time to change up your routine at the gym. Maybe focusing on some flexibility training, yoga or swimming, full body workouts that are gently on the joints. Not necessarily a full philosophy change, but giving those specific running muscles a chance to take a bit of a break after all that hard work is good for preventing injury and preventing burnout. This will also make getting back in the saddle for your next race easier and more exciting.
Celebrate your accomplishment
"Give yourself a celebration meal or treat, but don’t go overboard," says Speck. "The race lasted 3-6 hours, post-race indulging should not last weeks." While immediately afterward calories may be all that you want, other simple indulgences can help cement self-appreciation for all the hard work you have done, too. A nice long soak in the hot tub or a full body massage not only rejuvenates the spirit, but also helps invigorate and heal tired muscles. Most important is to make sure you give yourself a good pat on the back in a way that is meaningful to you - you deserve it!
Do a post-race self-analysis
Shortly after the race, think about what your trouble spots were. "After my first race, my arms were sore. I had not done any upper-body work my whole training time. Lesson learned!" There is a lot to reflect on and learn from after your race, and taking some time to ask simple questions helps you grow from the experience. Was the challenge more mental or physical? What emotions or physical complications came up that you weren't expecting? What part of the race was the hardest for you? What was the easiest? Answering these various questions will give you the information you need to improve your performance in the future.
Start planning for your next race
"This is a great time to sit with a trainer and talk about goals," recommends Speck. "Do you want to get faster in your next race? Do you want to get stronger overall? This will guide you to your next event. Maybe you prefer running faster at a shorter distance, or the team effort of a Ragnar race? You mastered running, is it time to try a triathlon?" As a seasoned athlete, Speck has had ample opportunity to explore all these options for herself, but the takeaway is that finishing the race is really just the beginning, a launching pad for just about anything you may want to accomplish. Even more important than the physical endurance needed to finish is the emotional reserves and will power to do so. Once you have had a taste for that sense of accomplishment it is hard to lose, and can be applied to many other facets of life. Always wanted to try taking cooking lessons? Learn to play guitar? Perhaps take up ballroom dancing? The truth is the sky is the limit, as long as you have the self-dedication to follow through. And we know you do, since you just ran 26.2 miles. So go after it, whatever it is!