How to survive the post-marathon blues

You just completed your first marathon! An incredible achievement that you never thought possible! You are amazing!

For four months you worked so hard to be ready for those 26.2 miles. Take a moment to reflect on all you’ve been through; the sacrifices of family time, countless training runs, aches, pains, chafing, hobbling, sweating, freezing cold, late nights, crazy early mornings, and more.

It really is a huge achievement. Just getting to the start line was impressive. Crossing the finish was monumental. You went from “I could never” to “I DID IT”!.

So what happens now you have attained a major goal? And how do you cope with the free time and mental space that is large in your life?

Feeling down?

For some marathoners the elation and celebration is short lived. It can be replaced or entirely absent. Feelings of depression, being down, or anxiety are common. Some describe feelings of loss or sadness they can’t explain. Some experience a lack of focus, drive or purpose in the days and weeks that follow.

These are the post-marathon blues and are a sure sign you need to attend to your emotional well being in addition to your physical well being. In the same way that physical recovery is required after completing a marathon it’s important to expect and plan for some form of psychological recovery too.

This emotional dip can be very real, and it’s not surprising. After all, a lot has just changed for you.

You left behind a period of intense focus, structure and routine, and you crossed the line into a void. You worked hard and achieved more than you ever thought yourself capable of, and now you’re missing a goal or driving mission.

How to survive the post-marathon blues

It happened to me. I experienced the loss at mile 14 when I realized more than half my race was already consigned to history, a thing already done. And in the following days the hours left empty of training were very pronounced.

So here’s some thoughts on how to help yourself manage through the post-marathon blues…

Stay in the moment and appreciate your accomplishment. There’s so much to be proud of it. Take your supporters out to your favourite restaurant to thank them, and toast them over your preferred drink.

Take some time and reflect on this mad journey. Write a diary or making some notes – what went well for you, what worked, what didn’t work out so well? What was in your control, what was beyond your control?

If race day didn’t go to plan look for some perspective. Appreciate that you got there. People run for many inspiring and deeply personal reasons; loss, remembrance, disease, illness. Just being there in the race is something to be mightily proud of.

Take advice on how soon to return to running. Aim to get back to a more moderate fitness routine and find a new routine to work to.

Don’t answer questions about doing another marathon or your next goal for at least two weeks. You have a lot to process and a lot of recovering to do. It’ll take at least that long to be objective about it, and to think about future goals and plans.

Renew focus on friendships/relationships; catch up on the fun that lost out to those weekend long runs. Shift your attention to other important areas of your life.

Make a plan to ease back into running gently again. Set up some near term fun races, parkruns, a 5k or 10k.

In parting, remember that it’s completely natural to mourn the passing of something that has dominated so much of your time. Allow yourself that time.

I’ll say this one more time. You are amazing! You are strong!

You’ve done your first impossible. You’ve redefined your version of normal. It turns out those crazy ideas, those unbelievable achievements, are not so unbelievable after all. So what is next on your crazy list?

What impossible thing are you going to believe next?

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