Tell Me Tuesday: Recovery after a Half-Marathon or Marathon

Me (orange l/s tee, black hat and vest) and 150 of my marathoning buddies on a gorgeous fall morning in the Twin Cities.

After Marathons 1 through 7, it took me almost a month to feel like my old self again. My legs felt heavy; my pace felt sluggish; I started to drool into my pillow at about 9:15 most nights. But this year, for Marathons 8 and 9, I’ve taken a new tactic: Instead of resuming to run a few days after the race, I’m now taking a full week off from exercise—and, oh, what a delightful difference it makes. My arse isn’t dragging, either proverbially or almost literally. I ran the Twin Cities Marathon on October 7, and my first run after it was just yesterday—an easy four miles. My legs felt fresh, and I was so excited to hit the road again, I practically skipped out the door. Here are five tips for pushing the reset button after a 26.2- or 13.1-mile race:

Give your body a break. You just asked your muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments to carry you 26.2 miles—they deserve some R&R. When I read on our Facebook page that mother runner Janet had conquered the Long Beach Marathon on October 7, then run eight (8!) miles on October 9, I winced and clutched my quads. Trust me: You won’t lose your fitness gains in a few days, and you’ll return fresher if you take a week or 10 days completely off of running after a marathon, or three to five days after a half.

Be vigilant about self-care. I always try to budget for a massage two days post-race. The therapists works out tight spots and potential problem areas I don’t know exist until she lays hands on them (hey, calf muscles, I’m talking about you!). The weeks and month following a big race are also the time to cozy up to your foam roller, The Stick, or frozen bottle of water. Roll, roll, roll away…

How I brightened my post-race mood--and filled some hours previously spent running

Make alternate plans. After the high of crossing the finish line subsides, it’s natural to feel some post-race blues. You’d been looking forward to, and training for, your big races for months, and now it’s over. Instead of throwing yourself immediately into a new training cycle (see above), find some non-running ways to fill your time. Go see that new Oscar-worthy movie everyone is raving about; head to the pumpkin patch with your kids (once your legs let you bend down to pick a pumpkin!); sort through your winter clothes and put away your summer ones. After returning from the Disneyland Half last month, I found cleaning out our freezer incredibly therapeutic; this past weekend, I used my “extra” time to plant daffodil bulbs.

Cross-train. Now is a great time to do that Bikram yoga class your friend has been raving about or to shake your moneymaker at a Zumba class. I’m considering taking boot camp three days/week instead of my usual two. Make the most of your freedom now that you not tied down to a training plan!

Then…start plotting your next race. Another 26.2, or shift to busting a move in the 5K? Maybe you’ll decide to focus exclusively on halfsies. There’s no right or wrong answer after a big race. After taking last week completely off, I’m jumping into Week 5 of the Half-Marathon: Own It plan from Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line - and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity. The plan is to pull two pals to a sub-2:00 finish at Portland’s Holiday Half.

Now, share with us: How do you recuperate and recover after an epic race?

21 responses to “Tell Me Tuesday: Recovery after a Half-Marathon or Marathon

  1. I am going to take seven days off after my marathon. I’m on day two so the soreness is starting to leave but I know in my heart that even if I feel normal in a couple days it’s best to wait.

    For my first marathon I hated running for two months. I forced myself to do it and I can remember how miserable those five milers were even a month post race. In hindsight it’s probably because I didn’t give myself enough time to recover.

  2. Thank you so much for this post! My friend and I ran the You Go Girl! half marathon in September and, determined not to lose all we had gained, went right back to our normal running schedule immediately after the race. I found myself sick and exhausted a week after that. I’m so glad to hear it’s okay to take a few days off after a big race. Thank you!

  3. Thank you! man, I’m NOT good at taking breaks. I had major trail withdrawal. Is walking your 3 year old super slow in the running buggy ok. It’s fall and my heart & soul are not the same if I don’t hit the trail. I’m so bad a rest.

  4. I also ran Twin Cities Marathon October 7 and took the longest time off after a marathon by choice (previously, I had been injured going into my marathons and was forced to rest afterwards). For that week after the race, I actually didn’t want to run (hmmm, the pain in the quads when squatting down to the potty squelched my joy of pounding the pavement). I agree with SBS that waiting at least a week now has made me feel back to my old self…eager and ready to go…even signing up last minute for the Twin Cities Monster Dash 10 mile in a week from now…

  5. Ice bath, compression socks (usually worn overnight), BEER. I’ll take a few days off, and then run a very slow 12:30-13:30 pace 3-4 miler as my first run back. After my Half next week I plan to take 2 weeks pretty easy (though I do have a 10K planned 15 days after… so not quite sure how to prepare for that – or if it’s just going to be a ‘fun run’ for me…

  6. After running the Portland Marathon, I was more than happy to take a week off from running. It was nice to come home from work and just veg, instead of jetting out the door to run. Now I just need motivation to get back in the swing of things!

  7. I kind of gave up running after my one and only marathon. It felt like I has nothing to aim for. So I started cycling and cycled madly for years until having a baby made running fit back into my life better! So I think signing up for another race, albeit a while away, is a good way of not losing your mojo completely. Something different like a trail race or trying to do a 5k after a marathon.

  8. Really needed this! Just ran my first full on Sunday & not really sure what to do with myself now. I’m going to follow your tips!

  9. I ran Top Of Utah in September and I gotta tell you, the let down after was brutal. I was cranky and irritable and tired and had lost all motivation to do anything productive. I had to remind myself that it was okay to just chill out and that the love would come back. It did but it took some time.

    I also have been doing things that I have wanted to but have had to put off while training, extra yoga, more weight lifting, things like that.

  10. On the second day after my first half, I did one mile really slowly and came home and stretched really well (like a good yoga stretch). It put my legs in better shape to be able to walk stairs again.

  11. I have only ventured up to the half marathon but I usually give myself 4 days off for a run of 10K and I had a week off after my first half. The next week was all easy runs of less then 10K as well. Now I am on week 4 post half, training for a hafl on Nov 10th and feeling fine (knocking on wood quickly).

  12. Having done 2 marathons where I RACED (a 10 miler 8 days after the first and a 15K 6 days after the 2nd) instead of recovered, I am beyond excited to give myself a week off!!!! I had decided to do that, but this post makes it more certain that I won’t panic and run. 🙂

  13. I just finished a half on Sunday (my 4th, and my 4th PR!!), but it was part if training for my first full (EEK!) so I took Monday off, got friendly with the foam roller and trigger point balls. Today I took a cardio kickboxing class and I’m feeling much better already. Tomorrow I have 7 miles on tap, and I’m expecting to feel very strong.

  14. I finished Chicago on the 7th and have run twice since then. ( I am training a group out of my local running store) Honestly, I could use a couple of more days off and am not running this week. I am definitely going to get a massage at some point this week and I have become best friends with my foam roller. My biggest problem were the post race blues that hit on Friday. I think that I cried the entire day. I now am looking forward to another spring marathon and a couple of half marathons. The first 2-3 weeks are the hardest for me.

  15. I just finished the Chicago marathon last week and it’s amazing how much more time I feel like I have now that I’m not training for it! The house is (gasp) clean… I did’t run again for 6 days and by then I couldn’t wait to get out the door! It’s amazing what a little time off will do for you!

  16. I like to do an easy shake-out run the day after a marathon. Then I basically do my taper in reverse. I prefer staying active. I agree that you won’t lose any fitness taking a week off, but my mental health suffers and my body feels more sluggish if I stop running.

  17. I also ran a full on 10/7, took a week off from running (had a massage- which I highly reccomend!! Walked, biked a little, did a little yoga) and do an easy 3 yesterday. That was the perfect recovery for me.
    After my first full (this was my 2nd) I think I took much more time off, but then again my body had never done the distance before and I was in much worse shape immediately after. Strangely enough this full beat me up much more, but I recovered easier.
    I also would make sure to get your ice bath in as soon as you can. I had to drive home 3+ hours, but kept my legs moving in the car & got right into the bath when I got home. Even with the delay I know it helped.

  18. Thanks for the great advise on post recovery. I’m training for my first marathon that is now 4 weeks away. I will plan on taking that 7-10 days off and get some holiday sewing done. I’ve got three girls and some special fabric to create some lovely dresses for presents. Then I will be back on the road to keep my fitness going and to prepare for a few spring half marathons.

  19. Well…I’m the Janet Sarah mentioned, and after that 8 miler I was much kinder to my body the rest of the week. 🙂 Rest and recovery are the parts of a training plan where I fall miserably short, and one of my goals is to pay more attention to them so I can keep running for a long time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Want some mother runner insipiration with special content and deals? 

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Subscribe To Another Mother Runner

Subscribe To Another Mother Runner

Join our tribe! Sign up for our blog posts and newsletters to get running tips, motivation, special offers from our partners and connect with other #MotherRunners across the country.


You have Successfully Subscribed!