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When it comes to marathons, you can find advice for just about every mile you cover, from training and preparation to actually running the race. What to do in the days following your race is a different story. Going from regimented, pre-race life to relaxation mode may even be a letdown (post-marathon blues are no joke) instead of a welcome relief.
Suggested recovery times seem to vary widely and at random. A conservative recommendation is to take a rest day for every mile raced, while other people can be found toeing yet another starting line the following weekend. We even wonder what to do after a race ourselves—feet up versus active recovery, run it off versus cross train, when can I run versus when shouldn’t I run.
Related: A Post-Marathon Plan
I was fortunate enough to have Andrew Kastor, Head Coach of the ASICS Mammoth Track Club and Coaching Director of the ASICS Los Angeles Marathon, as my coach while I trained for the 2015 Tokyo Marathon, and his dialed suggestions continued into the post-race zone. According to him, how you approach your recovery depends on what you put into the race. If an event was your “B” marathon of the season, it most likely means you weren’t giving your all on the course. It also means you may not need as long to recover. Listen to your body. You’ll still need to take some time off and address any lingering issues. But it also means you have the ability to make adjustments and be dialed for your goal event.
However, if a marathon was your major event of the season, chances are you gave it your all—congratulations! For goal-race recovery, Coach Kastor recommends the following recovery protocol “in an effort to maximize and prolong a person’s running career.” Considering Deena Kastor, coach Kastor’s wife, is still setting records at 42, we’ll gladly take his advice!
1. Take a cold bath immediately after the race, to reduce swelling caused by the trauma of a seriously hard effort.
2. Stretch for 10-20 minutes daily following your main event. Stretching helps to reduce the amount of scar tissue formed as a result of a hard effort.
3. Take 7-10 days off completely from running. The time allows damaged tissue to repair, lets the endocrine system replenish its hormones stores and gives a mental break from training. During this time spinning on a bike or swimming can be helpful (mentally as well as physically), but is not mandatory.
4. After post-race soreness has subsided, get a deep-tissue massage to break up any scar tissue or adhesion that may have formed from the race.
5. Plan your next goal! This helps you get back on track with your running.
6. Get a new pair of shoes to begin your training. Start off on the right foot with a supportive shoe that works with your footstrike.