What Next After Your First Marathon?
By Karen Hancock
Just after crossing the finish line, you experience enormous relief, quickly followed by “Never again!” But before long you begin to wonder if you could do better. And you start to miss the sense of purpose you had when you were fully absorbed in training for your first marathon. So you cast around for something else to do. Here are some tips on how best to build on your marathon achievement.
You need about 3 weeks at least of taking it easy after the marathon to enable damaged muscles to repair fully. Typically, the most painful post-marathon day is the Tuesday when “DOMS” – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – sets in. So don’t rush to run again until you feel able to. But do keep mobile and active. Swimming (especially in a cold pool or sea), cycling, walking, yoga and Pilates classes all help. Do some easy running when you feel up to it; treat any blisters, calluses and injuries.
As you recover, analyse your performance. Look at your splits: the most effective pacing strategy for marathons is even pacing. Could you have had a better race-plan? Look at your training, your nutrition strategy and even how much you drank in the race. Could you have improved with a more varied training plan? Seek advice from fellow-runners in a club or on the internet and see how you could squeeze more out of yourself.
Expect to get a little depressed. This post-marathon blues syndrome is very common when you no longer have your marathon goal to motivate you. You already know the most effective goals are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed. It may not be another marathon, but pick a specific race to target and set yourself a time goal for it based on your recent marathon. Consult one of the many race-predictors available on the internet to give you a realistic time to aim for. And to keep you motivated, I recommend either joining a running club, or establishing a group of running partners to train with. I guarantee you’ll train harder and more frequently if you’re part of a group. Plus you’ll have more fun. Long-distance runners aren’t all lonely.
UKA Level 3 Endurance Coach