But he called my bluff: “Ha. I give it two weeks, and you’ll be planning your next race.”
As much as we joke (and he was right, by the way), it got me thinking about the inevitable post-event letdown.
You see, the marathon’s not over once you cross the finish line. Whether you ultimately rock it or it rocked you, there’s a lot of buildup to that big day. Those months of preparation become all-consuming and include hundreds of miles, a roller-coaster of emotions and a hell of a lot of commitment.
So how do you fight boredom, stay sane and find a sense of purpose once the intensity of training has ceased? It’s actually quite simple, when you think in terms of planning for it with as much care as you plan for everything that precedes the race…
1. Replenish your body. Now’s the time to re-stock what you’ve depleted during months of hard training and a grueling race. Not only will it help move the recovery process along, but rewarding yourself with a favorite treat can also help lift the spirits (just don’t make a habit of it).
2. Kick up your feet. Although it feels counter-intuitive to avoid the very thing that helps you release stress and anxiety (working out), it’s important to let your body rest and recover because it sets the stage for your next round of training.
3. Set a new goal. Think both short- and long-term here. Start by assessing your race performance, then set a master goal, along with incremental goals to help get you there. Maybe one marathon was enough, so you choose a new distance and focus on training toward that. Perhaps you’re hungry to PR in your next marathon, so you focus on building speed and endurance to create a stronger base. Or if this marathon was a stepping stone to a longer race (ultras, triathlon), you can use it as a learning experience to inform your training going forward.
4. Ease back in slowly. Hit it too hard too soon, and you may end up setting yourself back with illness or injury. The general rule of thumb is to take an easy day for each mile you run in a race, so now is the perfect time to pick up a non-impact cross-training activity that will help strengthen your running down the road.
5. Listen to your body. Again, it can be tough to shift gears after months of putting pedal to the metal toward a singular focus, but make a concerted effort to quiet your brain and allow your body to lead the way. Did you notice any weak links during the race? Are you feeling lingering aches and pains in particular spots afterward? Now’s the time to address imbalances so you can “train up” those weaknesses for the next time you toe the start line.
So where am I at this point? Well, I’m happy it’s done, but sad that it’s over.
I’m thrilled with how my marathon went, although there are some things I might tweak next time around. Yes, I said “next time.” And no, I’m not signing up for one in the immediate future…but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about giving that elusive sub-four goal another shot at some point.
For now, though, my main goal is to focus on increasing my speed so I can shoot for PRs at other distances — the half marathon and 10K, in particular. In terms of smaller goals in the interim, I crave the consistency of a regular training schedule, so I’ll be putting together a mix of speed-focused workouts, along with complimentary cross-training.
And, after allowing my body to properly bounce back, I’ll hopefully be ready to hit it hard in the next training cycle.
How do you beat the post-race blues?