Saturday, 12 April 2014

What training should you do after the marathon?

Posted by speedygeoff on Saturday, April 12, 2014 with 4 comments
Option 1: rest for a while. Not the best option, but you may be forced to rest if you have injured yourself and need treatment. So, do what the Sports Doctor says and rest if you have to. But if the body can move, move it! My worst recovery was after my very first marathon, when I was so exhausted mentally that I did nothing physically, and it took me five months to find my running mojo again.

Option 2: active rest. Hike in the mountains, swim in the oceans, walk around town all day. Anything but sitting around with your feet up. One of my best marathon recoveries was Hamilton NZ, where I went straight into tourist mode, relaxing in Rotorua hot springs, jogging up long mountain trails, walking beaches.

Option 3: the pub crawl. The other time my recovery was excellent was after a very hard marathon on a warm day in Perth where I seriously hit the wall and needed large doses of liquid refreshment. This combined with a walk around town for the rest of the day helped my recovery enormously. I drank everything on hand; water, liquid yoghurt, fruit juice, and only the occasional beer, none of which "touched the sides". I was also very hungry and remember having two large lunches. Recovery therefore resulted from good re-hydration combined with a long walk on the same day as the marathon race.

Option 4: the reverse taper. Simply take your last three weeks and run it in reverse for the next three weeks. This may be as good a plan as any but it depends on what you did during your taper. I have never tried this because my plan had quick short races a week before the marathon and I usually preferred not to race or run hard for three or four weeks after the marathon.

Option 5: plan to get back into serious training as quickly as possible. This is good because it refocuses the mind. For most of my marathons I would jog each day for the next three days then run long on day four to see how things were going. Then a resumption of my normal training pattern. It worked after marathon two and I only did something different after later marathons if I were away from home touring somewhere.

Option 6: rest for a week and then race. I did this once; it was a recipe for disaster. The race itself was excellent but the subsequent breakdown inevitable. Here I totally agree with conventional wisdom. Do no racing nor speed sessions for at least three weeks after the marathon; four is even better. By all means plan a race four weeks later and then allow the body and mind a full recovery by continuing to run distances but at a reduced pace. And when you feel really good during those four weeks, completely ignore that feeling and do not race yet.

"But aren't you too tired to keep training?" If you have prepared properly tiredness won't be the main problem. Blisters, chafing, sore toes might be more of an issue. But you can deal with those and get back out running again as soon as possible.

"Everyone is different: I do what works for me." Yes and every marathon is different too. It is best to know what options work and be prepared to alter your plans according to your circumstances.

Finally, enjoy your marathon experience!


  1. After any event/race of marathon distance or longer, I find the best recovery is to ride the bike, road or mountain bike in easy gears. Just roll the legs over. Do it for an hour for 2-4 days, some cold/ice water to soothe any aches & should be ready to start running again. This is active recovery, sitting in the chair won't help at all.

    1. Another very good option. Thanks Steve.

  2. From Annette: Geoff. This is the most sensible post marathon suggestion I’ve seen. Well done!
    Regards Annette.

  3. Thanks for the advice. Canberra was my first serious marathon and was wondering what the best course of action was now that I'm ready to gear up for my next one.