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2011 Chicago Marathon: Post Race Tips And Advice

After the months of training race day comes and goes. It is normal to experience a little let down, but there are some things that you can go to lessen this effect or avoid it completely.

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 09: Thousands of runners participate in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 9, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 09: Thousands of runners participate in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 9, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
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Training for a marathon takes a lot of time and effort. For the training schedule I followed, that meant 623 miles and conservatively 3d 21h 27m of running. Then race day comes, and it’s all over in just 26.2 miles, which is just 4% of your total training miles. Many runners, including myself, experience a let down in the weeks following the marathon. There are some things that you can do to lessen this effect or avoid it all together.

Before I get to that, take a moment to think back, YOU DID IT, you just ran a marathon. If you reached your goal or not, you did something that less than 1% of the population has done, and that makes you elite in my mind, Congratulations!

It is common to feel a let down following a marathon. You spend the past 3-4 months doing speed work, tempo runs, easy runs, long runs and now no more training. First off, you are probably a little sore, and I say, “Embrace the Soreness”. It is your badge of honor. If people ask why you are moving slow, say with pride, “I just ran a marathon”. People may ask you about your time, tell them with pride. If they are not a runner, any time will be impressive. If they are a runner, I assure you that they will be impressed as well, especially if they have run a marathon themselves as they know the effort and commitment it takes. We runners stick together and support one another, no matter what our speed is. I say, wear your race shirt, bring your metal to work, take any let down you may be feeling and turn it around, and revel in your accomplishment. It is awesome and can help keep your emotions high!

As the week(s) go along, you will be temped to go out for a run. But, before you do so, make sure you take the time to fully recover before you start to run again. Your body takes a beating over the 26 miles, and needs the time to refuel and recover. When you do start, start slow, slow pace, short distances. Be sure to manage your expectations as you get back into it, because your body and mind may be in different spots for a while. It took me a couple of months to get back to the pace that I wanted to be at, and it was very frustrating.

At my celebration dinner after my marathon I swore that this was my one and only and that the half marathon distance was more my style. Later, I decided that I wanted to run the marathon in all the cities in which I ran the half (Phoenix, Disney, Cincinnati, & Chicago) not to mention having the idea to run New York or Boston (as a charity runner). My point is, allow yourself to dream about what’s next. Pick a next event, a new goal. Whether it is another marathon, a Ragnar Relay, a triathlon, or a Tough Mudder, picking a new challenge will help motivate you to get back into it by giving you another goal to reach. Be certain that the next event is far enough out in order to recover before starting to train again. I made the mistake of running the Ragnar Chicago just four weeks after the marathon, and while I had a blast with my teammates it was probably not the best thing to do for my recovery, nor was my pace what I wanted it to be. My next marathon will be the Flying Pig in Cincinnati in May (still hope to break 4 hours) and I am going to kick off that training a little different by trying for a PR at the Indoor Half Marathon at the Pettit Center in Milwaukee in January. May seem a little ambitious, and maybe a little crazy, but I figure that the training for the half will allow me to build my speed while building a strong base before the mileage increases for the marathon training.

At the end of the day, any post race let down is normal. That said, instead of focusing on the fact that the training and race are over, take the time to enjoy your accomplishment and the completion of your goal. Be sure to “Embrace the Soreness” it’s your own personal badge of honor, it is your way to remember the experience and all the hard work that went into it. Finally, I saw a Facebook post from my friend Colleen who ran Chicago; it simply said “I am a Marathoner”! YES YOU ARE and that is something to celebrate and cherish. You are in an elite class of runners and that is something that no one can take away from you!