How to Mentally Recover from a Marathon
After training for and running a marathon, you need a mental break in the same way you need a physical break. You’ve just spent months making your social calendar fit your training calendar. You’ve missed out on fun, late night activities, and possibly vacation because of your weekend long run. You may have even given up certain foods.
Regardless of whether you crushed or crashed your goal, the let down from a marathon can be confusing. I just ran my third Twin Cities Marathon. I started building my base in February, and raced three half marathons in preparation. The high weekly miles, and sometimes twice a day runs took so much mental energy, it felt like my entire world revolved around running.
I did set a 37 minute PR, and could walk down stairs again after only two days. However, I’m now staying up way too late, eating junk food and barely running. I haven’t found a good outlet for all of that discipline. If this sounds familiar, you (and I) may need a mental taper.
A Mental Taper
A mental taper is a way to rest and refocus your mind on the next thing. In order to do that, you need to absorb what just happened (you ran a freaking marathon!), enjoy it (PR or not), then harness that discipline for whatever comes next.
We’re creatures of habit, and our bodies crave consistency. A marathon training program gave you highly detailed instructions on how to live your life, then it leaves you on race day to figure out the rest on your own.
Let me offer a few tips that will help you integrate back into normal society.
- Schedule time to do things you missed out on during training. Antonio Vega of Team USA Minnesota and Zoom Performance says to “stay up late, eat one or two things that aren’t healthy, have a beer, glass of wine or other adult beverage.” His point is, you likely put some of your regular life on hold to train for your marathon. Don’t go crazy, but enjoy your accomplishment with some less responsible behavior.
- Take some time off. Time away from serious running may be just what you need. The thought of training through another half or full marathon cycle may feel daunting to you. Give yourself a week (or two) to step completely away from running. You might need to forget your last marathon before you’re ready to tackle another.
- You Can do it again. I know it’s going to take another really hard training cycle to hit my next goal of qualifying for Boston. If the thought of hitting your next PR feels daunting to you, relax. You’ve trained hard once and can do it again. It might look different, with different people in a different city, but fundamentally it’s the same. The sameness keep us grounded and the variety keeps us growing.
- Bask in your glory. Andrew Carlson, also of Team USA MN and Zoom Performance coaching tells his runners to “Enjoy your accomplishment! Carve out time to really enjoy what you have done and reflect back at all the work you put in.”
Once your body and mind have recovered, signup for a short race. If you’re like me, having something on the calendar will motivate and excite you to get back into a regular running routine. Turkey trots are fantastic!