Congratulations! You made it! You finally accomplished one of your ambitious goals. This section is to assist in your mental and physical recovery.
Recovery starts when you cross the line. Understandably most people just want to find a pleasant place to sit and never move again. Chances you have little or no easily convertible fuel in your body. The immediate goal before you take a complete break, is to get both liquids, and some solids in your body. There are people to help you at the end. Take full advantage of any help you may need. If you have pushed it too hard and are having a difficult time functioning, get someone to help you to the nearest medical tent.
Pay attention to your body temperature. There are two possibilities. The first is on an unusually warm day when you body temperature is close to the max. The moment you come to a complete stop your body temperature can rise. This is because the convection effect to help with the evaporation is no longer working. If you feel you are getting overheated, get cool water to poor over your head and neck.
On days that are normal to cool, the opposite problem may occur. It takes energy to keep your body warm. Near the end of a race, when you are running on fumes, the running is what may be keeping your body warm. When you stop it is possible to have your core temperature drop. This is why most marathons provides space blankets at the finish. It is best to take full advantage of them until your body stabilizes.
In the hour or so after the race, it is imperative that you try to rehydrate and get more calories into your body. Be aware as time elapses your legs will most likely feel worse, not better. You can expect then to get stiffer as the day progresses. The more you sit the more stiff they will become. There truly isn't any magical solution to make things right.
The adage time heals all wounds comes into play. It assuredly is time to rest. Things that help are a light massage. Avoid any deep tissue or aggressive massage at all cost. A warm bath or a light whirlpool can be beneficial. An ultra light walk in the evening will help.
In the days after a marathon. Avoid jumping back into vigorous training. Very light running or preferably walking is all that is needed. Some movement will help the body whisk away the toxins that have settled into the legs.
Surprisingly the mental aspects of recovering can be more difficult than the physical aspects. In fact, most likely your body is recovering quicker than expected. In the first days, despite the physical discomfort there can be a strong high. After a few days there may be a certain uneasiness that starts to permeate all aspects of life. For some, this uneasiness may be stronger than others. It may verge on the edge of true depression. These feelings may be stronger than expected, and may occur in people that very rarely ever get depressed. This segment is designed to help you get through the first days and also help you better manage what can be an emotional period for some people.
Keep in mind that what one experiences in the days and the first couple of weeks after the marathon is perfectly normal. I have not seen much written about this, but you should be aware that mentally there will be down time. For those that never get depressed, you still may take a few moments where you question the meaning of life. This feeling can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. For many, the first days are filled with elation, followed by an unexpected crash.
There are many factors involved. We will address a few of them so that you know what you may be feeling is normal.
As we get near the big race, we often become the focus and the center of attention among family and friends. This is always a pleasant feeling, but after the race is over, and everyone gets back to their normal life, you may no longer be the center of attention. Because of this, you may experience a sense of loss.
For goal-oriented individuals, once the race is over, there is another type of loss. The lofty goal that has occupied a significant portion of your life is now gone. There may be an emptiness when everything is finished. At first, simply running without having the future goal may seem rather pointless.
Runners that have been running for years have a slight advantage. They are already thinking about their next big race and how they are going to improve. They have been through those lows and realize that this is just part of the recovery process. Nevertheless, for runners that have fulfilled all their expectations, there can still be a moment where they question whether or not all that time and effort was worth it. For people that do not intend to run another marathon or even another race, this feeling will be more pronounced. So one must deal with the real sense of loss.
The life that one created to achieve this goal may be over for some, but there are several steps to lessen the effects of feeling this way.
1. Acknowledge that life has changed and that these feelings are actually quite common.
2. Talk to your family and friends. It is perhaps better is to have open discussions with your running partners.
3. Make a plan in advance. For those whose goal was simply to run a marathon, the best remedy is to go out and run a few short workouts in the following weeks. This will get you back to a healthy mental state quicker than anything else.
4. Give yourself time for your body to adjust both physically and mentally.
5. Make new goals. Hopefully, you can see there are benefits to running other than simply finishing a big race. For many, dropping down to the occasional 5k or 10k can be just as rewarding. Personally, There was a long period of time where I worked out f without running any type of race.
6 Use this time formulate a training plan. This is a good time to set new goals and develop a new training plan for the weeks and months ahead.