How To Deal With The Post-Marathon Blues

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So you’ve been training for months for a race, sticking to a strict nutrition plan, and working on beating your time by a few seconds each week.

Finally, the day comes! You run a super marathon and finish tired but happy. You celebrate with family and friends.

But when you wake up the next day, you feel down. What to do today? What purpose do you have now?

This is a common feeling!

Today we’re discussing how to deal with the post-marathon blues and find your enthusiasm again.

What are the Post-Marathon Blues (PMB)?

The post-marathon blues is a name for the let-down feeling you get after you’ve achieved something you’ve been working at for a long time.

It’s a common thing, even when it’s not related to running. Finishing a big project, hitting a fitness or work goal, or even purchasing something you’ve been saving for a long time can trigger these blues.

In terms of running, it’s a common feeling when you finally finish a big race you’ve been training for.

You can train for a marathon for anything from 6 to 9 months. That’s a lot of time and effort to put into a race.

For half a year (or more), you eat, sleep, and breathe training. Your nutrition is geared towards helping you run a great race. Your cross-training aims to improve your racing performance. Even your sleep is carefully monitored and planned to help you achieve the best performance possible.

And when you cross the finish line, all of that is behind you.

What Might Happen After Finishing a Big Race?

So what are some of the feelings you may experience after you’ve completed a big race?

A Lack of Purpose

If you’ve been training for months, your big goal has now come and gone. All your work has paid off. It’s done, finished, passed.

It’s natural to feel a bit lost. Where do you direct your attention and energy now? You may find yourself feeling bored because you’re no longer following your training program.

But the most common feeling is a lack of purpose. There’s nothing to work towards, no training sessions to work on. It’s all behind you, and having nothing ahead can feel hopeless.

Difficulty Explaining What It Means to You

Finishing a particular marathon may have extremely significant meaning to you. The reasons behind it are usually very personal and can be difficult to explain to others.

Your friends and family will most likely celebrate with you! But if they’re not runners or don’t understand what the race meant to you, you may feel a sense of despondency because you can’t share the true meaning of your race with them.

A Lack of Routine

Your body has gone through a grueling experience, not only during the marathon but in the months of training before. You will need a break.

But going from a structured weekly training routine to having your days free with no training goals can be difficult.

You may find yourself struggling to get out of bed in the morning if you aren’t going for a run. Even if you choose to keep up some light exercise, you may have a hard time drumming up the same kind of enthusiasm as before if there’s no goal to work towards.

An Emotional Reaction

Your results in your race can give way to a variety of emotions. If you didn’t do as well as you’d have liked, you’ll most likely feel disappointed. Your self-esteem may be affected, and you may even feel a deep sense of loss.

If you achieve your goal, a sense of pride and joy is natural. You may experience a bit of a high as you celebrate your victory. But when it wears off, you may begin to swing the other way.

Whether you achieve your goal or not, a sense of anti-climax is quite normal and can bring up emotions from sadness to anger.

Exhaustion

Running a marathon is no small feat! Your body will be tested, and once it’s over, you’ll need a rest so your body can recover.

But going from a regular training routine and nutrition plan to unstructured days or weeks can have negative effects.

Although you’ll be resting, emotional turmoil associated with the post-marathon blues can actually cause your immune system to crash, leading to extreme exhaustion and even illness.

Post-Marathon Blues Happen for Two Reasons

However your post-marathon blues show up, they come from one of two reasons.

A Psychological Reason

You’ve spent months preparing for this race. When it’s over, you may have no specific goal, no focus, and a lack of purpose.

These feelings can lead to a type of depression known as post-climactic depression. Or, it can lead to anxiety as you feel like you have nothing more to work towards or even worried about what value you can offer now that your race is over.

This is something that happens to professional athletes too!

Understand that these feelings can hit you whether you had a good or a bad race. It’s not about how well you did. It’s about spending all your time, energy, and effort on something that is now in the past, and being unsure about the future.

A Physical Reason

Whether it’s your first or tenth marathon, it takes a toll on your body! 26 miles is a long way to run without recovery breaks.

But not only have you spent your physical energy, you’re also most likely experiencing a chemical reaction in the brain and body. Running, especially finishing a race, kicks off a rush of endorphins.

But once that “runner’s high” wears off, you may actually experience withdrawal symptoms. This may be especially true if you’re taking a break from training after a marathon, as your body is no longer getting its daily dose of exercise-induced endorphins.

What Are the Symptoms?

It’s not just a bit of an anticlimactic feeling. Once your race is over, you may feel strangely sad, bordering on depression. This may be accompanied by a strong sense of loss.

Physical symptoms include lethargy, fatigue, wanting to sleep more often than usual, a change in appetite (loss or increase of) and possibly even illness as your immune system takes a knock.

Mental and emotional symptoms may include a lack of purpose or goals, disappointment, no motivation, irritability, or a loss of self-esteem.

It’s important to recognize these symptoms as the post-marathon blues! It’s a commonly accepted thing, so there’s nothing wrong with you if you experience some of these symptoms after finishing a big race.

Recognizing and acknowledging the post-marathon blues is a big step closer to beating them!

Can It Happen to Everyone?

Yes. In fact, they can happen after short races too, or at the end of a running season, or when hit by injury.

You can even get these feelings from things that have nothing to do with running! Any time you reach or are thwarted from a big goal, there’s a chance of the blues popping up.

Once you understand that they’re likely to hit you at some point, you can begin preparing to deal with them. Here are a few things we recommend doing to deal with the post-marathon blues.

How to Deal with the Blues

Maintain Awareness

Awareness is half the battle won! If you know the blues are likely to arrive, you can get a head start on beating them. When you feel those first bluesy feelings setting in, you’ll be aware enough of them to start taking steps immediately to deal with them.

That doesn’t mean sitting around waiting to feel sad. If you’re lucky, these feelings may never come at all!

But being aware of PMB simply means that when you start to feel down, you know why. When you understand the reason, you can take action towards fixing it.

If you’re so inclined, choose which of these things would suit you best and create some sort of schedule or plan for incorporating them when you feel the blues kicking in.

Accept That It’s Over

This one may be harder than it sounds. When the race is over, of course, we understand that it’s over. But it can be harder to separate yourself from the life you’ve been living for the past 6 to 9 months.

The best way to start accepting that your race is over is to set another great goal! That way, you can take your mind off what’s passed and focus on what’s to come.

Register for Another Race

This is an excellent way to stave off the post-marathon blues. Keeping your running calendar full means there’s always another goal on the horizon.

You won’t have much time to dwell on what’s passed when you’re already working towards your next goal.

Focus on Cross-Training

If you don’t have a particular race coming up, you may choose to focus on cross-training to gain strength.

Whichever form of cross-training you choose, it can help you to strengthen weak spots and maintain your fitness while taking a break from running.

Choosing to spend some time cross-training can also prevent boredom or that loss of running motivation after a marathon.

Find a Group to Run With

If you’d prefer to keep running, it can be more difficult to do alone. Find a running group that can motivate you and keeps you accountable.

Not only can this spark your running motivation again, but you may even make some new like-minded friends.

Find a Support Group on Social Media

Social media can be extremely helpful for keeping you motivated and helping deal with the post-marathon blues.

Joining a group of runners who have experienced the exact same feelings is a good idea as they can offer advice and help you through it!

Plan a Post-Race Trip

If you’d prefer to have a bit of a break from fitness after your marathon, why not go on a vacation? This gives you something to plan, focus on, and look forward to.

If you choose to do this, make sure you have something to come back to so you can avoid the post-vacation blues!

Enjoy Another Hobby

What other hobbies do you have aside from running? Post-marathon could be the perfect time to revisit hobbies you may not have put much time into lately.

Get back into playing a musical instrument, traveling, art, or whatever else you love doing!

Meet Up More with Family and Friends

When you’re training, it can be hard to find time for other things. As a result, your relationships may have suffered a little.

Post-marathon is the perfect time to catch up with those you haven’t seen in a while and rekindle relationships that may have fallen by the wayside.

Indulge Yourself

Another thing about training is that you’ve probably been following a strict nutrition plan. Once your marathon is done, it’s time to relax and enjoy yourself!

Go out for dinner or drinks with friends. Do some baking. Have ice cream for dinner! Take a step back from your nutrition plan and indulge yourself. Just don’t let this become your new lifestyle!

Try Something New

If you’re the kind of person who needs a challenge, it could be an excellent idea to try something new and exciting.

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to go on a meditation retreat. Or learn to snowboard. Or learn to cook Indian food!

Whatever you’d like to do, now is a great time to begin. It takes your focus off of running, training, and all that it entails.

But it gives you something fun, new, and challenging to focus on. If you aren’t thinking about the post-marathon blues, they may as well not be there!

You don’t need to make this your new hobby. It could simply be a single event or course. But the important thing is that you find something interesting and intriguing to keep your attention on until you find yourself a new running goal.

Who knows, you may even find something you love just as much as you love running!

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AUTHOR

Shanna is a writer who runs... And cycles, jumps rope, and lifts weights. She lives in beautiful South Africa and enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with other avid athletes.