Spring is high race season for half marathons and marathons. Runners train as much as 15-20 weeks for their goal race only to cross the finish line and feel a little disappointment, which is normal. After that initial high from finishing your first long distance race, or finally running that time you’ve been aiming for, it’s completely normal to feel the post-race blues.
Post-race blues can come in many forms, from feeling more tired than usual (aside from the tiredness of having just finished a 13.1 or 26.2 mile race), sadness or depression at no longer having a goal to work towards, or feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what to do with the sudden free time that non-training frees up. Ask any other runner what they do to cure the post-race blues and the number one answer is signing up for the next big race.
Planning out another big goal to work on can certainly help, but I should caution you that you could be setting yourself up for a big let-down, too. Think about it, your body needs rest. Your brain needs rest. If you have a family, they probably need a rest from the training routine, as well.
The number one thing your body needs right now is recovery time. You may be walking around feeling great a day or two after your race but at the micro level there is a lot of stuff going on, from nutrient depletion to muscular micro tears, and possibly more depending on how things went during training and on race day. Don’t be too quick to jump back into running. Take some time off, rest, and relax. Take at least one week off completely and then stage a slow return with very easy-paced runs over the next 1-2 weeks.
Before you plan out your next big goal race, try finding a 5k race to jump into about 2-3 weeks post-race and capitalize on all of that training you put in over the weeks and months you trained for the half marathon or marathon. Enjoy another new PR or two at shorter race distances which can also help to alleviate those blues.
Give yourself time to really think about what you want to do before jumping head-first into a decision you may not be ready for. If you are new to marathons or half marathons one caution I throw out there is make the decision to run another one based on you, not on what everyone else is doing. Just because “Joe” runs 5 marathons a year doesn’t mean you should, too. “Joe” could have years of experience under his belt, or he could be running himself into the ground. Heavily consider your time, your work and/or family obligations, and your ability to put in quality runs versus cramming them in whenever you find spare time.
Once you do settle on your next big race to train for try building on the foundation you laid out previously in your last training cycle and enjoy the ride (or runs!) Good luck.
Jill Forsythe is a lifelong athlete having participated in both competitive and recreational sports. Health and fitness is a trait she has worked hard to instill in her children, as well as the community-at-large. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for a local non-profit, Lehigh Valley Road Runners, and has directed both trail and road races within the community. lvrr.org