Some days are predictably a bit of a let-down. One of ‘those’ days. September 1st; it’s not the summer anymore, even though the weather is still warm and light. Even worse when you’re a kid. Back to school. Then there’s December 27th; you’ve played with your new toys, eaten your selection box, and someone is going to have to go and buy some milk. For some runners, and certainly for me, one of ‘those’ days can be a couple of days after a marathon. Here is my clickbait guide to…
5 things that make the days after a marathon harder than running the race in the first place.
- You will be utterly knackered.
After a 5k, 10k, or even half-marathon, you’ll be fine after a few days of recovery. While it might be a couple of weeks before you have recovered properly, at least your head will be in the right place. Out of the door, and off you go. Aching, maybe, but happily aching.
A marathon is slightly different. For a start, your body takes a lot longer to recover. You might not even run for a week. And you are physically tired. You want to sleep. It can be difficult to accept that the rest of the world doesn’t want to fill in for your responsibilities, just because you did something for your own gain in the first place. What?! You expect me to go to work?!
So the first runs after a marathon can be somewhat anticlimactic. You’re fit, but your legs don’t bend. You’re in peak shape, but sound like a whoopee cushion with a sore blowing in bit when you get out of a chair. Even if you ran to a marathon PB, you might well have lost a little top end edge to your speed, as you’ve trained to run for hours. Dragging yourself out of the house to run four miles not only seems slow, but it hurts so much more than it did in the week before your race.
- You might want to move house to somewhere with better places to run.
It might seem slightly extreme, but you may consider moving house, to somewhere that simply isn’t near the roads you usually run on. The roads near your house suddenly seem so dull. You might have ran on them hundreds of times before, using them to lever your head into better places, and your body to new heights of athleticism, or you might already live somewhere beautiful; but that two mile radius is a mental drag.
Heaven knows how ultra runners pick themselves up again. Maybe they don’t need to, knowing as they do so many meditative ways and places to run. Yet the principle is the same; if you have trained and focused for so long, it can be different to get back to the hum-drum routine of running.
- Running doesn’t do what it used to do. You need something else. Now. Because you’ve thought about one thing for months, and now it’s gone.
Of course, I generalise. You might be utterly fine. I just know that, after London, I wasn’t.
I knew that work would be very busy after the race, and that I wouldn’t be running as much at that point of the year. The two events, the recovery period and extra busy workload, tessellated perfectly. But the come down from the euphoria, coupled with the extra hours and reality crash, certainly did not tessellate.
Following weeks and months of running miles away from the local streets and roads, I was back to the recovery miles. And they weren’t just a bit dull; they were boring, and I never thought I would feel like that. A Parkrun the weekend after London, in which dozens of us wore the finisher’s technical running tops we had earned the week before, alleviated the symptoms for a while. Or simply masked the problem.
For years at work, I had extolled the benefits of running, both physical and mental. Now, being knackered meant that I couldn’t enjoy the running fix in the same way. While I had completed one spring marathon before, it was part of a training plan, and was also in a holiday. My post-London downer was different. This was the first time I really couldn’t be bothered.
- You might lose a bit of oomph, va-va voom, or blam.
I was lost. Without running myself into the ground, literally, I was running myself into the ground metaphorically. I don’t have to be good at running. It just has to make me happy, and it wasn’t. It couldn’t. If I sat down after work, there was no way I was going to go for a run. I was going to have a cup of tea, and probably a piece of cake.
So I did lots of other things instead. Things that meant I could get the work done, and recover.
I played my guitar. I wrote a riff for the first time in ten years.
I sorted out the garage. There weren’t quite as many garage monsters as I thought there would be.
And I thought about my next running challenge. The year does not end in April. I had been so single minded about the marathon, I hadn’t given much thought to what or where I might like to run afterwards. I had avoided entering races in the six weeks following London, just in case I picked up an injury. But the next race I had entered wasn’t until August, and that is a long time to wallow in self-indulgent and pointless existential post-marathon running angst. It wasn’t like I had done something I had never done before, or that no-one else has ever accomplished. This was supposed to be fun.
Better pull myself together a bit.
- It’s the simple things in life that make you happy.
Truth is, not only are those exercise endorphins wonderful, but the marathon meant that, for me, they were temporarily irreplaceable. They felt different because I had slogged for them, and because of the planning in achieving them. If running around the estate would not do, then I would find my endorphins somewhere else, thank you very much.
Recovery, and a need for normality, dictated this to be so.
Tom and Lizzy suddenly became very interested in riding their bikes. They raced each other around the local park, a pursuit race that made the Olympics and my endorphin search look feeble. “DaaaaaaaD!” They hollered at the end of each lap, a Doppler Effect of excitement and mid-race exhilaration. Tom wore his Tour de France jersey, and Lizzy smiled and beamed as her extra years of strength kicked out more power than her brother. And she knew it. The competitive edge was whetted, and glinted in the spring sun.
After weeks of lethargy, I finally felt the urge to move under my own efforts again.
Something had to be done about the running. Something to shake it up a bit.