Post Marathon Recovery Guide

Your post-marathon recovery starts the minute you cross the marathon finish line.

And the sooner you take action to minimise aches, pains, and injuries, the better.

The good news is that there are actionable steps you can take immediately after your marathon to help you recover quicker.

Here are my top tips for your marathon recovery, in the hours and days after your marathon!

Post Marathon Recovery Guide 1

Immediately After The Marathon 

Keep Moving

If you managed to run all the way to the finish line, that’s fantastic. But beware, that lactic acid is waiting in the wings to jump in and stiffen up your legs as soon as you stop moving.  

So – walk around for a good 15 minutes or so once you cross the finish line – don’t sit down and let those legs go stiff.

Walk over to collect your medal, walk to the burger stall or the physio tent – just don’t be too quick to stop moving, or you will find it much harder to get up again.

Drink and Eat

Continue to drink water when you finish – your legs may have stopped racing, but your internal organs haven’t.
And eat – preferably something as substantial and hearty as you can stomach.  It helps kick-start your body’s recover process. Something with high protein content is advised.

Elevate Your Legs and Stretch

Once you’ve walked off the stiffness, grab a seat on the floor and raise your legs up on a chair or wall – this helps drain the excess fluid from them, preventing them from becoming too stiff or swollen.  If you can, remain here for twenty minutes of so, and do some gentle stretching – you’ll be grateful for it in the coming days, trust me!

Physio and Massage

Better than stretching yourself is getting someone else to do it for you.  Likewise, getting a leg massage can really help relieve your tired leg muscles.  

Some of the bigger marathons organise post-race masseuses – if you can get one of these, go for it!

Tend to Blisters

Now is the time to clean up any foot issues you’ve had.  If they’re minor, you can usually leave them alone and they’ll gradually disappear on their own over a few days.  

If they’re big, or contain blood, you want to drain them hygienically – clean the whole foot first, especially the area around the blister, then pop it with a sterilised needle at three or four points around the perimeter.  

Let the blister drain, then consider applying some dressing if the skin flap is left loose – your foot won’t be ready to lose the old skin yet to keep the area covered and protected.

To the Pool

If you can, get to a swimming pool.  

They are one of the best ways to recover.  Simply walking around the shallow end of a pool can be a great way to treat your legs after a marathon, and doing strokes like the breast stroke can ease your muscles and help with recovery.

Post Marathon Recovery Guide 2

Post-Marathon Recovery In The Days After

A post-marathon recovery phase in the days following your marathon is important; having a plan in place to let you recuperate both physically and mentally.   It’s imperative to take it easy in the days following your marathon, and allow yourself to celebrate and have that well-deserved break. 

But after a few days, it is worth testing the waters with some light exercise such as swimming and cross-training – just so your body doesn’t stop completely.   

After a few days, you can introduce some easy, slow, short runs into your recovery plan. These will loosen up your legs and actually help with recovery.

Post-Marathon Blues

In the days following your successful marathon, don’t be surprised if you feel a little bit melancholic.  

The reason is that you’ve just completed a major challenge, a task that took over a large chunk of your life – and now, believe it or not, you miss the sense of achievement and hard work that you got from all the training.  

Now it’s over, and you’ll never be able to run another first marathon again.

Bear in mind that you’re likely to be physically laid up too – and not just your legs and feet.  

Running a marathon puts a tremendous stress on the body, and over the next few days your internals will be working overtime to heal your tired muscles and rebuild itself.

This means that your immune system may be depleted, and you may be more susceptible to viruses and bugs. Use this period to rest up, don’t do anything physically demanding and try not to expose yourself unnecessarily to viruses or unsanitary places.  Get plenty of sleep, eat some ice cream and congratulate yourself! Read more about The Post-Marathon Blues here!

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.

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