You’ve done it! You’ve completed the marathon, by hook or by crook you’ve done it! Catch your breath back, grab a drink of your choice and bask in all your glory…
Aaaaand then the recovery process begins. Yep, whether you like it or not, your body is now beginning the phase of putting itself back together, bit by bit, and it’s thinking to itself “you got us in to this mess so you can help to get us back out of it!” And in fairness, you can, by following a few simple steps after the marathon:
On the day after the marathon
Eat a protein-rich meal, rehydrate and make sure you get a good night’s sleep. That’s about as much homework as I’m going to give you directly after the marathon. No stretching, don’t worry about an ice bath, just focus on refuelling and getting a good night’s sleep. You’ve exhausted yourself to the extreme, physically, mentally and possibly even emotionally – keep it simple for the rest of the day and wear your medal with pride – you’ve joined the highly exclusive club of the Marathon Runners!
The next day
“Ouch.” That will pretty much sum up your next day. It doesn’t matter who you are, 26.2 miles will take it out of your body. What’s the best thing to do? It’s actually to get up and start moving around again. I know that it feels like the last thing you’ll want to be doing, but a brisk walk will get the blood moving around your legs again and help to facilitate the recovery process, and in turn, reduce the achiness.
If you’re a great planner, you’d have booked in for a Sports Massage the day after to flush through the legs and get the blood flowing to help with the recovery process. This is also your chance to talk to your therapist about any specific aches, pains, niggles that you feel you’ve picked up during the race. Post-marathon massages are usually booked 1-7 days after the event (but the sooner you can get in, the better for you!)
Don’t even entertain the idea of running again until your body has sorted itself out. How long does this take? It varies depending on the individual and their fitness levels, but usually 1-2 weeks.
Continue with your brisk walks, start back with your stretching and maybe even get out your foam roller for some self-massage (be careful not to do anything too intense with the foam roller in the early days post-marathon).
Any ache, pain or niggle that doesn’t feel like it’s improving with time after the 10 days, look to see a professional to have it assessed.
When you feel like you’re ready to start back running (after the constant shouting of “NEVER AGAIN AM I DOING THIS” on day 1 post-marathon) – ease yourself back in gently and do what your body feels comfortable with.
Just as with the rest of the recovery process, it’s all about baby steps – you’ll get there again – and you’ll always be able to say that you’ve ran a marathon. Nobody can take that away from you, congratulations – enjoy it!