Post marathon blues got you down? You aren’t alone. "Having a feeling of being let down, or even a short wave of depression, following a well-prepared race can be a normal experience," says Dr. Jeff Brown, author of The Runner's Brain and the Boston Marathon's lead psychologist.
On November 5th, 50,000+ runners took to the streets of NYC for 26.2 miles. Whether it was their first marathon or their 20th, a few days after crossing that finish line most runners will have that “ok, now what?” thought. As humans our brain and body are used to meeting regular goals, both short and long term, and we develop our daily routines based on each goal. When we achieve our goal, we lose our routine and can feel a little lost.
In addition to craving structure, our brain also releases endorphins, or “happy chemicals” when we exercise. Often called the “runners high,” this is part of the reason we feel so good after a run. The loss of this chemical boost can also contribute to feeling a little down post race.
Regardless of if you had a perfect race or struggled to the finish line, remember to mentally recover as well as physically! Here are a few ways to get started:
1. Rest! Enjoy the fact that your body just completed months of preparation and a 26.2 mile race. Your last 18 weeks have revolved around your running schedule and you have most likely passed on nights out and time with friends. Now’s the time to take a week off of running, focus on stretching and mobility, sleep in, and catch up on missed plans.
2. Reflect: After you’ve take a few days to unwind, revisit your race day! Did it go as you planned? What were the highs and lows? Can you prepare better next time? Most importantly, is that mid-race pain still around? If so, now is the time to get it checked out.
3. Regroup: Decide what’s next. Whether it’s another marathon or a 5k, set a new goal. Dealing with an injury? Talk to your physical therapist about realistic running expectations.
4. Refocus: Create a new training plan. Decide if you want to get faster, stronger, or more consistent in your training. Whether it involves running or rehab, having a scheduled plan will help your brain and your body get back on track.
Lisbeth Hoyt, PT, DPT