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Here’s How Many Days To Take Off After A Half Marathon

Plus, eight useful recovery tips to get you back to your training quickly.

Running a half marathon can be very taxing on the body, and recovering properly from the high-intensity effort, muscle soreness, and glycogen store depletion from the race takes time.

Runners, often beginners running their first half marathon, may wonder how many days to take off after a half marathon. The answer isn’t as cut and dry as it seems and depends on many factors. 

Many runners make the mistake of jumping right back into running and don’t respect a full recovery period with well-deserved and needed rest days built into their training plan. This could lead to overtraining syndrome.

Healthy, smart runners prioritize and optimize recovery after a half-marathon to build upon the fitness yielded from the training cycle and return to running quickly.

As a general rule of thumb, runners should take off two to seven days after racing a half marathon.

 In this guide, we will help you optimize your half-marathon recovery by discussing the factors determining how many days to take off after a half marathon and expert tips on how to recover faster to get you training for your next race.

A close-up of runners' legs, running 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. 

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 just take one day off and 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 two hours, it’s recommended that you take up to a week off from running. 

A burred shot of a half marathon.

What Factors Determine How Many Days To Take Off After A Half Marathon?

Many factors determine how many days to take off after a half-marathon. Your friend’s recovery time will likely differ from yours, so compare and examine the following variables carefully.

#1: Race Effort

How hard you run will determine how many days to take off after a half marathon.

  • If you run your half marathon as a goal race or at a hard effort, you’d 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 recover and refocus mentally. 
  • If the race went poorly and didn’t overtax 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 usual after 1-4 days off.
  • If the race went well, but you feel fatigued, rest for at least 2-4 days.
An aerial view of a half marathon.

#3: Race Experience & Fitness Level

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 long distance at least once a 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 feel up to it.

#4: Race Time

The longer it takes you to complete 13.1 miles, the longer recovery time you will need. 

  • If running your half-marathon took less than 90 minutes, you may need only 2-4 days of rest. 
  • If running your half marathon took longer than 2 hours, your body may need up to a week off of running.

Related: Half Marathon Training: How Long Should Your Longest Long Run Be?

A close-up of runners' legs running a half marathon.

#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. Take the first week after the half marathon off to 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 running coach, friends, or even this guide. All runners generally benefit from taking at least 1-2 days completely off during half marathon recovery. 

What Are Good Post-Run Recovery Tips To Recover Fast?

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 back to the roads and trails faster. 

Runners running a race.

#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 walk slowly for at least twenty minutes to spur that oxygen-rich blood flow through your damaged muscles. 

#2: Rehydrate

After finishing your race, drink water and electrolytes to replenish your body.

Adequate hydration will help keep your blood flowing, repair muscles, and flush toxins. Electrolyte drinks will help rebalance electrolyte levels if they are depleted during the race. Grab a couple of bottles as you move through the finish area. 

Aim for your urine to be pale yellow to clear, and avoid drinking alcohol. 

Three bottles of sports drinks.

#3 Refuel

Eat your post-run snack filled with carbs and protein soon after you reach the finish line. The ideal window is 20 minutes after finishing.

Restock those glycogen stores with carbohydrates like a bagel or banana (which supplies much-needed potassium, too) post-race.

Get some protein to help muscle repair with Greek yogurt, chocolate milk, nut butter, or cheese. Salty foods will also help replenish the 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—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 next day or two after the race1Wiewelhove, T., Schneider, C., Döweling, A., Hanakam, F., Rasche, C., Meyer, T., Kellmann, M., Pfeiffer, M., & Ferrauti, A. (2018). Effects of different recovery strategies following a half-marathon on fatigue markers in recreational runners. PloS One13(11), e0207313. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0207313 to help your muscles repair themselves and work out tight areas. If booking a massage isn’t possible, aim to gently foam roll the major muscle groups in your legs over the next several days. 

A massage gun is also an effective tool for promoting recovery. Using it in tandem with a foam roller can help heal damaged muscles and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). 

A close-up of a therapist giving a massage.

#6 Lightly Stretch

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.

#7 Sleep

The best thing you can do for your half marathon recovery process is to sleep.

Sleep2Halson, S. L. (2014). Sleep in Elite Athletes and Nutritional Interventions to Enhance Sleep. Sports Medicine44(S1), 13–23. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-014-0147-0 is where your body can do the most work in healing the damage from the race. During deep sleep, 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.

A woman doing a yoga pose.

#8: Cross Train

Since running is a high impact sport, it can hinder your recuperation if you start again too soon after a race. However, you can include some no or low- impact cross training activities into your training program such as aqua jogging, biking, or swimming.

#9: Resume Easy Running

After you’ve rested and followed your post-race recovery plan, 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. 

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 want help training for your next half marathon or full marathon, check out our free training plans and let us help you get to your next big race:

References

  • 1
    Wiewelhove, T., Schneider, C., Döweling, A., Hanakam, F., Rasche, C., Meyer, T., Kellmann, M., Pfeiffer, M., & Ferrauti, A. (2018). Effects of different recovery strategies following a half-marathon on fatigue markers in recreational runners. PloS One13(11), e0207313. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0207313
  • 2
    Halson, S. L. (2014). Sleep in Elite Athletes and Nutritional Interventions to Enhance Sleep. Sports Medicine44(S1), 13–23. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-014-0147-0
Photo of author
Whitney Heins is the founder of The Mother Runners and a VDOT-O2 certified running coach. She lives in Knoxville, TN with her two crazy, beautiful kids, pups, and husband. She is currently training to qualify for the US Olympic Trials marathon.

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