You have just run a marathon. Congratulations! You should be proud of yourself. The trick now is to recover from it so that you can be as comfortable as possible over the next week and month. Being miserable after your race cuts down on the enjoyment that you derived from having run it. By following a few simple tips, you can be back to normal in next to no time at all. This past Spring, I managed to run a 5k race 3 days after my marathon. Even following these tips, you probably will not want to do that, but it can and has been done.
Here are 9 ways to recover quickly and enjoy the end of your race:
- Stay on your feet: Resist the urge to sit or lay down. Ideally, you want to walk around for a while after your race and stretch your legs out. If you can manage it, you may even want to jig jog a short cool down. I usually content myself with walking about for at least half of an hour, though, before I sit down for more than a few moments.
- Give back your chip: For chipped races, giving back your chip will not necessarily help you recover faster. What it will do, though, is keep you from having to face another $30-$50 bill a few weeks later if you accidently keep or lose your chip. There are usually people at the finish line to help you remove the chip from your shoe. I tend to try to take it off myself and use it as an excuse to not walk around for a few moments and to get a good stretch in. Just be careful not to fall over. Your balance may be a little bit off immiediately following your race.
- Put on something warm: The space blanket they hand you at the end of the race will go a long way towards keeping you warm, but putting on some dry clothes and getting into something warm will feel great. If you have baby wipes or a towel, you can do a quick job of cleaning yourself up before you change.
- Eat and Drink a lot: Do not neglect to eat and drink after you finish. Drink as much water as you possibly can, and stuff your face with whatever comes to hand. You will need the calories. Visit the food tent as soon as you can after your race, or raid your post race bag for any snacks that you packed in it. I only had a few bagels after the Boston marathon once, and I was will for most of the rest of the day afterwards with abdominal cramping. It is better to give yourself the food and be a little uncomfortable than to deny yourself the food and spend the rest of the day sick and in pain.
- Change your shoes: Put some flip flops or sandals on, or put on some loose fitting sneakers. Your feet will thank you for the change. Bear in mind that your feet are going to be a bit swollen, so tight boots are not going to fit or be at all comfortable. Do not even consider wearing something uncomfortable. If you have some old slippers that you do not mind getting dirty and it is warm enough for them, then wear those around after the race.
- Hover around the toilets: When you finish your race, you need to get changed and to get some food and water. While you are walking around, though, try to stay in the vicinity of whatever toilets are available. Trust me, you are going to need one. If you do walk off and wind up being even a two minute walk away, then you are asking for trouble. Bear in mind that there may be lines at some races to use them. The need to go can and will come up very suddenly, and it may take a trip or two before you are done.
- Take a nap: If you can, try to nap for at least a half hour or more after your race. If the race is first thing in the morning, then an early to mid afternoon nap can really help to energize you and allow you to further enjoy any evening celebrations following the race. After the San Antonio marathon one year, I did not go to bed until after midnight and neglected the nap. I wound up spending the next 3 months sick as a dog. Your immune system is going to take a beating. Do everything that you can to get it back up to speed as fast as you can. Taking in plenty of calories, drinking plenty of water, and a short nap is all you will need to keep yourself going.
- Make the most of the post race festivities: Enjoy the end of the race. Stick around for the awards ceremony. Make friends with your fellow runners. Get some quality time with your friends and family. Some races will have more going on than others, but you may as well enjoy what is available. You deserve to relax a little; you just ran over 26 miles. Have some fun. Reflect on your race. Write down your thoughts and memories so that you do not forget them.
- Go for a walk the day after your race: I try to walk for at least a few miles the day after every marathon, now. You will be stiff, but after walking for a few miles you will have stretched out and you will really help your recovery. If you are travelling, then try to schedule your trip so that you have an extra day or two in whatever city your marathon is in. Do your sight seeing the day after the race. When I ran in Cleveland, I walked for 3 or 4 miles to a nearby park to read a book, and then walked back. After the Mysic Places Marathon in Connecticut, I walked around New York City the day after. I basically walked until I was too sore to walk any further and would stop in a pub. Then when I was too sore to sit any longer I would get up and walk again. After the Vermont City Marathon, I took in the sights of Burlington the next day. I was certainly not recovered enough to run a PR 5k the second day after those races, but I was recovered enough to have no trouble walking about my days and being perfectly comfortable.