Reader To Reader: Post-Marathon

Your first marathon is over - how much should you run now? Here's what you thought


Posted: 22 October 2006
by Jane Hoskyn


"I've just completed my first marathon, peaking at 50 miles per week during my training. I'm now looking to train over the winter and enter numerous events to improve on my PB. What's the best advice you kind folks have on training after your first race? Can I continue running 40-50 miles per week without risk of serious injury? Or this a stupid idea?!"
Michael Firmstone

Your best answers...

  • Keep up the training, and enter a race evry couple of months to give you targets to aim at. Start trying to set PBs at 10K, 10 miles and half marathons. – Johnny J
  • Consensus advice is that for a first marathon you'll need up to a month to fully recover. However, as others have said, if you feel OK and don't do anything silly, you can pick up running again after a week or less. A good idea is to do some cross training: swimming, cycling or walking. But be very careful of doing quick breast stroke if you've recently run. It's an unnatural action for legs that are used to only going forwards or backwards.

    The other thing you may find is that after the training, the race, the elation and the partying you may feel flat, listless or even slightly depressed a few days after your marathon. Apparently this is related to hormone levels, but I guess it's like any other big event in your life (exams, house move, wedding etc). Once it's over, you have to slot back into real life, which can feel a bit bland after all the excitement.

    Best advice, as others have said, is to give yourself some more targets. Not too many or too aggresive, but a race or two before Christmas and definitely a spring marathon. If you're struggling to get into the big races then somewhere like Lochaber is a great alternative: a really good race and a nice weekend break. Good luck. – bunions

  • I completed my first marathon this year (London). I had a fantastic experience and loved every minute of it. But afterwards I found my body was fatigued more than I expected, and I couldn't run much for at least a month, and even after that only a bit. Psychologically I didn't know what to do with myself – the training had taken up so much of my life before the marathon. I got very depressed and had a bit of a nervous breakdown in the summer. So my advice would be to make sure you have something positive to do immediately after the marathon. Expect not to be able to run for a while, and have something very enjoyable planned for the weeks afterwards. I am fine now and have taken up a few other interests and am just starting to run and enjoy it again. – Sticky Whippet
  • I had great plans to keep it going after London this year, but my body was telling me to take it easy after picking up a number of nagging injuries. I mainly focused on cycling over the summer, and set a target of a half marathon in September. I'm now back into it full time and glad of the break. The break has helped my mind and motivation as well as my body, because I'm far more keen to run now than I was a month after London. In fact I've just taken up triathlon. – BowiPod
  • Getting straight back into high mileage marathon training shouldn't be a problem if you're fit and healthy. If your 50-mile weeks comprised mainly road running, it may be better to concentrate on off-road runs, with perhaps a cross-country race planned in over the next four or five weeks. Then follow a suitable 12-week marathon programme. From experience it's the mental side that can be a problem, as you're back into a "work-tunnel" of structured mileage with a distant goal. – mango
  • I'd take a month off first. Do some cycling, swimming, easy runs (low mileage). Allow your body to fully recuperate, then build up the mileage again – Stu pot
  • Your plan for the next few months will be largely influenced by your aims for the "next one". If you are going for a PB, regular training through the winter is a must. But chuck in a few races for good measure to keep you on your toes, keep things fresh and give you a near-term target and focus. See them as a series of stepping stones to the Coastal Marathon, and increase intensity and distance as you get nearer the time. Consider cross-training to keep fitness levels high and reduce the risk of running-related injuries. – OuchOuch
  • Try to maintain or even progress the mileage over winter. You'll probably find it easier to rack up long(er) runs now it's not so warm. Increase the race distances, so perhaps a December-Feb 10-mile race, and maybe one of the spring half marathons in March. Forty to 50 miles per week is fine – the body is an amazing thing and will adapt quickly to the workload. You may even find that, provided you keep the mileage steady, you could increase to to 60 or 70 or even beyond. – JamesEarlJones
  • I get back to running about 48 hours after a marathon, and back to seven days a week as quickly as I can. But I was knackered after my first marathon and my knees kept protesting for months, so I'd say it depends how used to hard running your body is. You do need time for your muscles to recover, there's no point in pushing it. Also, what you eat is really important, especially in the hours after the race. Only you know how you're feeling and how your muscles feel. – Firefeet
  • You're fit, so why not enjoy it? Have a month off running and look at new sports or ones you may have neglected whilst getting ready for the big 'un. After that, book yourself into a 5K or 10K, start thinking about whether you want to do another marathon on the spring, then get back to training again. – 99%Chimp
  • Listen to your body and ease yourself back into it. I've taken it easy these past two weeks after doing the LNM, but the body and mind are starting to miss it. With the dark nights and colder weather, shorter runs are my preferred choice over the winter. Bring on the snow! – Stephen Humphrey
  • Train a little slower – that'll let you train seven days a week. Once your body is happy with that, introduce some speed work, efforts or hills. Whatever you choose, build it up slowly and listen to your body. – Flavs
  • A few light jogs in the first week will help ease the stiffness out. Your legs will be micro damaged, and need a fortnight to repair. Carefully assess your shoes: they may be tired out, too. Be careful about racing too soon. You'll know if you've pulled a muscle if the muscle on one side hurts more than the other. If you escaped that, you may get back to full speed in a month. – Blisters
  • After a marathon, there is only one thing to do next: get yourself a bike, some neoprene and a pirate outfit, and do an Ironman! – toucan


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