Post Marathon : Where to next?

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.”
– Lucius Annaeus Seneca

The marathon is over, and running-wise I’m a little adrift. I wouldn’t really call it the post-marathon blues; I just feel like the wind has gone from my sails. Goals wise, I’m boxing the compass with different ideas and suggestions coming from all corners. A 50km here, another marathon there, a half-marathon on yonder horizon. OK, OK. I’ll drop anchor on the nautical theme (sorry, just could not resist one more!) and get on with it.

I’m sure this lull is just temporary, they almost always are, but the loss of a target in front of me has let the momentum fall away. To be honest, I’m enjoying it. With the pressure of the marathon released I’m coasting along, taking time enjoying not running (sleeping in on a Tuesday and Thursday is awesome!) and pondering what’s next. In retort to Seneca: “As I have no port to which to sail, no wind is needed”.


Image credit

Now, to be fair, I’m not completely without a goal. Not having anything to look forward too after the marathon is truly a recipe for the post-marathon blues, a horrible condition afflicted upon runners who have focussed solely on completing a marathon and suddenly find themselves deflated, depressed and wondering “what’s next?” as they find themselves without a goal after so many months of building up.

To ensure I don’t fall pray to the PMBs I’ve set myself some mini-goals to cover the next month. They don’t take much effort, and are designed to ensure I recover physically and mentally from the marathon fully before embarking on the next challenge.

Mini-goal 1 : Recover

It was Frank Shorter, American running great who said “You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming” and I think that is a really good piece of advice. If you can still remember those tedious pre-dawn starts to go running in the rain, or that 20 mile run you moved to Saturday morning so you could go to your friends birthday party on Saturday night, then your mind isn’t yet ready to embark on the next build-up phase. You’ll just burn out.

With that in mind I’m following a Hal Higdon post-marathon recovery trick – the reverse taper. Put simply I’m reversing my taper for the next three weeks – I.e. go from basically nothing for a week, to two or three runs in the second week, back to three-to-four runs in the third week, adding back in my cross training. This way I can ensure I recover and don’t push to hard to run before I’m mentally and physically ready to be running that much.

Mini-goal 2 : Recharge

I’m going to use the next few weeks or month to recharge. Recharge my body and my mind. Let any body stressors calm down. Let my Achilles heel niggle settle, get my ITB to relax, my 2nd toe joint to stop being inflamed. All those little chinks in my armour that will develop into full-on rents if I push back into running too quickly. I also want to do some of those things I had to postpone due to marathon training, like going to a theatre show on a Thursday night instead of doing a 10 mile run, spending some quality couch time with my girlfriend watching a movie without falling asleep because I did 26km earlier in the day, and drinking that extra glass of wine with dinner because, well, I want too.

Mini-goal 3 : Focus on others

Running, especially marathoning, is a selfish endeavour. It requires dedicated hours of self-focus every week as you churn miles and make sure you get in your complimentary exercises. For me, this is all solitary, excepting my (newly joined) yoga class with my girlfriend.

Luckily, the start of the Running Group that myself and my friend Matt have started has coincided with the completion of the marathon. Yesterday was the first run of the group, taking about 12 people on a 5km circuit around Regents Park. This was also my first run since the marathon, and it felt good to be able to run with others, and without a time pressure. The running group also takes the focus of running away from my own running, and allows me to concentrate on others.

Mini-goal 4 : Back to basics

Over the next month my goal is to get back to a base level of running of three times per week, covering about 30km. Without any races in the close future I’m in no hurry to get back into a training schedule where every run has a purpose. I’m looking forward to a few weeks/months where I can run for enjoyment and self satisfaction only, without any overriding performance targets. Though judging by my ‘boxing the compass’ comment above it’s likely to be weeks, not months…


With my four mini-goals above I hope to be able to recover mentally and physically from the marathon while at the same time rejuvenating my running by removing the pressures of distances and pace. And hopefully I’ll keep the post-marathon blues at bay!

Happy running everyone!


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About getgoing-getrunning

Hi, I’m Bernie and I’m a just guy who writes about the things which get me going and get me running, even though my running is never going to result in me standing on a podium!

Posted on October 28, 2013, in Blog and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Those are great mini goals: I really like the idea of the reverse taper- thanks for sharing that one 🙂

    • Cheers! My reverse taper is at the moment a bit of a no-run affair though. I’m going to have to zip up my man-suit and go out tomorrow morning, if I don’t get blown off my feet in this weather!

  2. Bernie,
    We’re both on the same track here. No pun intended. I didn’t feel like a fat slug during the taper, but I’m beginning to now. It’s back to the gym tomorrow and a short run on Tuesday night.
    The reverse taper is a great idea. Who the hell wants to jump back into marathon training mode a few weeks after a marathon? It’s time to run for the fun of it.
    It’s amazing what you can get done on a weekend that doesn’t have a long run on the schedule.

    • Haha indeed! I managed to do a lot of not-very-much, and it was great. I ate pizza, drank a beer, cooked a huge chicken and leek pie, watched the formula 1, had a nap, caught a movie with the girlfriend, lunch with friends AND managed a Sunday nap. Can’t remember the last time I did that when I had to spend a few hours on one of the days running!

  3. Great post! I wish I had read it after my marathon. It would have made my transition back into normal life a bit easier! Thanks!

  4. Enjoy the down time. It’s much earned after doing a marathon.

  5. All sounds familiar Bernie. I am just coming to the end of a self imposed two week rest. Can you walk down stairs ok now?! That was my biggest post marathon challenge. Next thing to look forward to is day 63 after your marathon – that’s when the toenail falls off!! Enjoy the break- you’ve earned it.

    • Haha!
      Yes, Stairs are fine now. On Wednesday after the race I went on a site inspection at my project – walked up and down about 20 flights of stairs. That fixed all left over quad soreness that is for sure!
      I’ve got one dead toenail – which I had about 6 weeks before the marathon, so that will come off in the next few weeks. Other than that physically I’m fine from the marathon. I think it comes from having run a lot slower than I trained, I just didn’t punish my body that much in the marathon. Well, if you discount the whole running with a cold and popping Sudafed like candy the whole way around the course 😉

  6. Good for you! Taking time to properly recharge and recover is SO important! I’m feeling about ready to scale back my running a bit, but unfortunately I have a few more races coming up before I can do that – a half in 2 weeks and a full in January (I think I may have over done it a bit!), but after that I’m taking some major recovery time!

    Love that you started a running group, I’d love to find a group to run with near me!

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