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”.
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!
Get Going, Get Running!