Running a half marathon can be very taxing. Recovering from running 13.1 miles takes time for your body to repair the damage, build back stronger, and prevent any running injuries. A lot of runners wonder how many days to take off after a half marathon. The answer depends on a lot of different factors.
Many runners make the mistake of jumping right back into training after running a half marathon. This is problematic because these runners overlook the many weeks of training it took to get to the start line and the microtears and stress on the musculoskeletal system done during the race.
Related: How to Run a Sub-2 Hour Half Marathon (+ training plan)
Healthy and smart runners prioritize and optimize recovery after a half-marathon, so they can build upon the fitness yielded from the training cycle and return to running faster.
In this article, we are going to help you optimize your half marathon recovery. We will discuss:
- How many days to take off after a half marathon
- Factors that determine how many days to take off after a half marathon, plus
- Tips for recovering faster from a half marathon
How many days To take off after A half marathon?
In general, runners should take two to four days off running after racing a half-marathon. Note that I said racing—not running.
There is a big difference between running a half marathon at an easy pace versus running one at a hard effort.
If your half-marathon was your goal race, you should take at least two to four days of rest.
Related: The Best Half Marathon Training Shoes for 2022
Can I run the day after a half marathon?
You can run the day after a half marathon if:
- your half marathon was run at an easy pace and treated as a training run.
- your run the day after your half marathon is done at an incredibly easy pace and treated as an active recovery day. In most cases, experienced high-mileage runners are the ones to perform this type of run, also known as a shake-out run.
Can I run two days after A half marathon?
It’s possible to run two days after a half marathon if your half marathon was treated as a long training run done at a comfortable pace or your half marathon time was less than 90 minutes.
If your time was longer than 2 hours, it’s recommended to take up to a week off of running.
Related: What’s a Good Half Marathon Time: Average Time by Age & Sex
What factors determine how many days to take off after A half marathon?
There are many factors that determine how many days to take off after a half-marathon. The recovery time for your friend will likely not be the same as yours, so throw out comparisons and look hard at the following variables.
6 factors that determine half marathon recovery time
#1: Race Effort
How hard you ran will determine how many days to take off after a half marathon.
- If you ran your half marathon as a goal race or at a hard effort, you’ll need more time off from running (at least 2 to 4 days).
- If you ran the race as a training run at an easy pace, you may not need to take any time off at all. It’s possible to do a light recovery jog the day after, keeping your heart rate low and distance short.
#2: Race Result
How the race went will also determine how much time you may need to take off running after your half marathon.
- If your race went poorly and you are feeling upset, it’s prudent to take several days to mentally recover and refocus.
- If the race went poorly and, as a result, didn’t overly tax the body, you can resume running as long as you aren’t mentally shaken.
- If the race went according to plan or better, resume training as normal after 1-4 days off.
- If the race went well, but you are feeling fatigued, rest at least 2-4 days.
#3: Race Experience
Whether running 13.1 miles is routine or a first for you determines how many days to take off after a half marathon. Many novice runners will not cover 13.1 miles until race day, while experienced runners will cover that distance at least one day per week.
- If you haven’t covered the half marathon distance before race day, take 5-7 days rest, or more, as needed.
- If you have covered the race length in training, resume easy running after 1-4 days of recovery if you are feeling up to it.
#4: Race Time
The longer it takes you to complete 13.1 miles, the longer amount of recovery time you will need.
- If it took you less than 90 minutes to run a half-marathon, you may need only 2-4 days of rest.
- If it took you longer than 2 hours to run a half marathon, your body may need up to a week off of running.
Related: Half Marathon Training: How Long Should Your Longest Long Run Be?
#5: Injury History
If you were recovering from an injury or staving one off during your half marathon training cycle, it’s smart to take more time off running. A week off running may help your body repair damaged tissue.
#6: How You Feel
All these tips are guidelines and should not overrule how you feel. If you ran a half marathon in 90 minutes, it went great, but if you still feel drained after four days off running—then take more time to recover.
Nothing should override how you feel. And only YOU know how you feel. So, listen to your body over advice from your coach, your friends, or even this article. In general, all runners benefit from taking at least 1-2 days completely off during half marathon recovery.
How do I recover faster from a half marathon?
What you do immediately following a half marathon and in the days after can greatly impact how fast you recover from running 13.1 miles.
Below are tips to speed up your recovery so you can get to the roads and trails faster.
8 Tips for Half Marathon Recovery
#1: Walk from the finish line
All you may want to do is sit down after you finish your half marathon. But this will extend your recovery time. Instead, keep moving to promote circulation, which will help your muscles recover.
Aim to slowly walk for at least twenty minutes to spur that oxygen-rick blood flowing through your damaged muscles.
#2: Drink water and electrolytes
Liquids will also help keep your blood flowing to help repair muscles and flush away toxins. Electrolyte drinks will help rebalance electrolyte levels if they were depleted during the race. Grab a couple of bottles as you move through the finish area.
Aim for your urine to be clear, and avoid drinking alcohol.
#3 Eat well
Restock those glycogen stores with carbs like a bagel or banana (which supplies much-needed potassium, too) post-race. Get in some protein to help muscle repair with some Greek yogurt, chocolate milk, nut butter, or cheese. Salty foods will also help replenish your sodium lost through sweat.
#4: Take an Epsom salt bath
After you’ve walked around, hydrated, and refueled, soak in an Epsom salt bath. Warm baths promote circulation—which is the number one way to promote recovery—and the magnesium in Epsom salt is known to soothe sore muscles.
#5: Get a massage
Book a massage the day or two after the race to help your muscles repair themselves and work out tight areas from the race. If booking a massage isn’t possible, aim to gently foam roll the major muscle groups in your legs for 2 minutes at a time over the course of the next several days.
Related: How Long is a Half Marathon? 4 Ways to Measure It
A massage gun is also an effective tool in promoting recovery. Using a massage gun in tandem with a foam roller can help heal damaged muscles.
#6 Lightly stretch
Doing light stretching like a slow flow yoga will help lubricate your joints, get that blood moving, and prevent stiffness.
Avoid overly stretching your muscles with long holds exceeding 20 seconds, as this may cause muscular or tissue damage, especially if the area is overly sore and vulnerable.
The BEST thing you can do for your half marathon recovery is to sleep. Sleep is where your body is able to do the most work in healing the damage the race did to your body. During deep sleep is when your body releases the Human Growth Hormone (HGH), the key to muscle repair, bone strengthening, and fat to fuel conversion.
Slack on sleep, and you could be facing poor recovery, or worse—injury.
#8: Resume easy running
After you’ve rested and feel recovered, it’s best to take a couple of days to a week of easy running at a reduced volume before resuming or restarting a new training cycle.
Related: 12 Essential Tips for Half Marathon Training (+ training plans)
Ease your body back into new training stress to ensure it’s completely recovered and ready to perform!
Considering all of the factors, have you been able to calculate how many days to take off after a half marathon? If you would like help in training for one, check our Marathon Handbook resources.