Q+A: I've done my first marathon - what next?

Our experts answer real-life questions

Posted: 9 September 2000
by Bruce Tulloh

Q I’m 48 years old, and thanks to the training I’ve been doing for my first marathon I’ve gone down a dress size and feel great. I’m currently running 11-minute miles, and have just run my first marathon, but I really want to know what sort of training I should be doing now. I want to maintain my new-found fitness after completing 26.2 miles. I’m a member of a sports club with a swimming pool and a gym, so can you recommend a programme that combines running, swimming and gym work (preferably with emphasis on the running, as I love being outdoors)?

A The first thing to bear in mind is that you will need to take things easy for a couple of weeks after running the marathon. But after that your background of fitness will enable you to move onto a higher plane.

I recommend having some short-term goals, because they’re better for motivation than the non-specific one of just keeping fit. I suggest that for the five months after your first marathon you think of running for a total of two hours a week, swimming one hour a week, and spending 30-40 minutes per week on gym work.

For the running, try to do one session a week of speedwork, with things like 10 x 1 minute fast, two minutes slow (or 12 x 200m fast, 200m jog if you’re on the track). This should enable you to try a 10K race.

In the autumn you might move over to more indoor and less outdoor work, and in the winter you might reduce the exercise load to one run, one swim and one gym session. There are endless permutations, but I advise that you do more of what you enjoy most. You should also have at least one rest day a week, to be taken when you feel you need it. The key is that there should be a point in the week, not necessarily a Monday morning, where you feel recovered and ready to take on whatever the next week will throw at you.

Bruce Tulloh, RW Coaching Editor

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Discuss this article

Hi All,

Just completed my first marathon on Sunday. What advice do you have as to how to take the next few weeks ? When should I do next long run etc ?
Posted: 18/09/2002 at 15:42

Well done, Mark. Bet you're sore. Are you still saying "Never again"? Obviously not, or you wouldn't be asking about doing long runs.

There's no rush. You have a lot of repair work to do. Let the pain settle. Have a walk and splash about in the swimming pool. One week after the marathon is quite soon enough for your first run of any length, and if you don't run for two weeks that's fine. Your first long run should slot in about 4 weeks after the marathon.

Eat a bit more and sleep a bit more. You need the building blocks for muscle repair, and your body does most of its maintenance work during sleep.

Cheers, V-rap.
Posted: 18/09/2002 at 15:51

Thank You V-rap,

Your advice seems spot on - just my quads are sore (they cramped after about 22 miles on Sunday) - I think I did my long runs in training too quickly, the longest I was on my feet for was for 2.75 hrs and I was aiming for 3.5 in the race - came in at 3-39-57, (last 4.25 miles took 44 mins ! ! !)

I think longer (timewise) and slower (pacewise) training runs are required ?

Any other tips ?
Posted: 18/09/2002 at 16:07

Mark, when I did my only marathon so far I think the last mile took me 44 minutes! I did the first half in about 2:15 and hit an exponential downward curve thereafter.

Felt fine within a week or so afterwards, though - which didn't stop me taking almost 3 months off to get my life back.
Posted: 18/09/2002 at 17:11

V-Rap, Sheila Anne and Tim,

Many thanks for your thoughts and advice.
Posted: 18/09/2002 at 17:30

Yup, take some time out Mark.

According to Bob Glovers books, a long run takes about 3 weeks for the full training effect to really kick in. Therefore three weeks or so after the marathon your legs will have rebuilt nicely for the long runs to restart. Until then it's just a case of recovery runs with maybe the odd tempo 2 miles at 1/2 marathon pace slotted in so your legs don't forget how fast they ought to be going.

Works for me anyway. I got one of my best 5K times a couple of months after the marathon & reckon the extended break really helped.
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 13:19

Take it easy Mark. EAt drink and be merry! You did a great time. As someone else says, allow 1 day per mile raced for recovery before doing any serious speed work. Just go for slow, easy jogs, if possible off the road so it's a bit softer underfoot. Start getting back into training with longer runs and speedwork about 3-4 weeks afterwards. Don't be surprised if you come down with a cold or some other virus in the next week or so. It often happens after a marathon. Pamper yourself until it clears.

Posted: 19/09/2002 at 13:46

Hi Mark

i completed my 1st marathon on 28th Sept and also am unsure when to begin to train again- did a few slow miles today - do you think doing a half marathon on the 26th October is too soon? I feel fine and have no real aches and pains
Posted: 04/10/2003 at 23:07

i did a half 5 weeks after my first marathon
if you are ok, well go for it
Posted: 04/10/2003 at 23:09

I did my first marathon 5weeks ago and although I felt as if I could run 2days later (common sense kicked in) I didn't. I left it a couple of weeks, before I started doing gentle runs,but I am still struggling and feeling de-moralised. When ever I begin to jog my calf muscles tighten up, I become breathless really quickly and my heart rate is unusually high - I'm fed up and wonder now if marathon running is for me, another problem is that the weight's going on because I can't run as much - HELP!! Will I ever be normal again!!
Posted: 17/07/2004 at 18:09

Take it easy for as long as it takes.
You need to be fully recovered before building up any hard training. Too soon and you won't get the benefits of training and will just delay your recovery further.
Posted: 18/07/2004 at 23:08

Well done on that time Mark. Don't worry about the end bit - you're definately not alone in zonking at that point!

Everyone is different - some people can go for a gentle run the day after, but it takes me a few days before I can even walk normally!
I've only done 2 marathons, but for both it's been about a week before I've been able to do a gentle run of about 3-5miles. Even then my legs would feel a bit sore towards the end though.

For me, it seems to take a full month before my legs 'wake up' though - that they feet totally recovered and have lost that heavy feeling I'd get on every run I'd try to do after the marathons.

Do a bit when you're ready, but don't push yourself until you feel that your legs have properly recovered... in the meanwhile bask in what you've achieved!

Alot of people have a bit of a downer after a marathon - I mean it's probably been the focus of your life for the past few months, but then suddenly it's all over and you can feel very lost and aimless. I find it helps to have entered another race or two - just a 10k or fun run, but something which will motivate you and get you back out there!

Posted: 19/07/2004 at 07:55

My first marathon was London in 2004 and I've just recovered now. I don't know if I have the commitment for another - I don't just want to get round, I want to beat 4.15 (4 hours if possible). Maybe this is unrealistic as my PB was one-off! 4.39.
Posted: 05/04/2006 at 12:54

Hi completed Abingdon yesterday (my first marathon in 4:08)and legs do not feel too bad but did spend 15 minutes in a bath of frreezing cold water.

My main problem is that I feel really low. I am usually very upbeat but feel very flat and down and am giving myself hard time over my time and that I should have been able to run more quickly at the end.

Is feeling low after marathons that comon?
Posted: 23/10/2006 at 13:28

Yes, very common. All those months of training and now it's over. It's always a bit of an anti-climax (unless you are Plodding Hippo, and you have another marathon next week, of course!)

4:08 for a first marathon is superb! Running quickly at the end of a marathon is not something that many people can do, so don't beat yourself up over it.

This week should be spent eating lots of "bad" food and polishing your medal. By next week, you should be trawling the event section for your next target race. :o)

Well done!
Posted: 23/10/2006 at 13:41

I don't know about feeling low, but I certainly feel slow for a couple of days afterwards - mentally and physically. As is said further up in the thread, lots of sleep and rest are what's required. I slept 9 hours solid last night - 2 more than I usually need.

I also did Abingdon yesterday, btw. You beat me by 10 minutes :-) I was disappointed, given last year I was 25 minutes faster. But no point beating yourself up about it. How many people can complete a marathon at all? And secondly, there's always next year to have another go.
Posted: 23/10/2006 at 13:41


well done on your first marathon

yes, the low is very common
it will pass
But you need another focus

anotehr race

Now, it does not have to be a marathon--------
Posted: 23/10/2006 at 13:43

Low after a marathon - most definately and not surprisingly. Forgot about after my first some 25 years ago but has been the case twice recently 34th and 35th. Well done Mark G now go plan another or two for next year plus a sprinkling of smaller distances to keep you motovated inbetween times. Is it really as long as 6 months till Lochaber? Too long. Plodding have you any planned for next Jan Feb March?
Posted: 23/10/2006 at 14:19

Guys - I've signed up for my first marathon in Berlin this September 30th, but have also put myself in the fabled lottery for New York (Nov 4th) - I'm doing a lot of running, and intend running the full marathon distance well before Berlin, but am now concerned I've bitten off more than I can chew after reading the comments on the forum. Any advice ? Am I just over enthusiastic,a martyr or totally deluded ?
Posted: 24/04/2007 at 23:26

I too did London this year for my first marathon. It was great, the training went really well and I had great recovery, really enjoyed the whole thing. The only trouble is I've now completely lost my way! I've spent the last couple of months doing sporadic training, some days hard, some days long, and other days I find I just can't be bothered! How can I find my way back into motivated training that I want to go out the door and do? The main problem could be that now I'm just focusing too much on trying to avoid weight-gain - how can I change that?! Any help v. welcome!
Posted: 12/06/2008 at 13:14

wow, I thought it was just me! I did the Forest of Dean Half in March having not run a race for 3 years. I  trained like a demon (and finished in 1hr 35m). My aim was to keep my base level of fitness by doing two proper runs every week since although now I find that some weeks I don't do any due to lack of motivation.

 I agree with an earlier post that you need to enter a race and have a training schedule in place to give you something to aim for. I have now earmarked 3 races for later in the year with my training regime to start in early August.

The funny thing is when you are training it seems so difficult but when you look back on it, you don't remember all of the pain!!

Posted: 12/06/2008 at 13:52

Yeah you're dead right - pain, what pain?!  (Oh THAT pain, I'm sure I'll remember 13 miles into the next one!).

Thanks for the response, it's good to know I'm not alone.  I'll try and find some milestones for the next few months.  Though I'm living in Dublin at the moment and finding that events over here seem to be very sparse, or just for "proper" athletics clubs (i.e. very few road races for us normal people!).  There is a 10 mile and a half marathon in September before the Dublin marathon at the end of October which I'm aiming for.  Any advice on how I should approach that one?  Aim for a better time?

Posted: 17/06/2008 at 20:29


many congratulations friend

 there's little i can add right now, as i'm tired, and  all these posts are right in one way or another

and everyone is different

take care pal - wishing you so many more happy hours of running


Posted: 17/06/2008 at 20:57

OK, but what about the flip side of this? There are people that do several marathons in succession, whether its a day apart or week apart (usually those used to the ultra's etc). How on earth do they manage to do this?

I ask because I have a little 'challenge' to achieve - I just did manchester marathon on Sunday, but I have also entered Leeds half marathon, i.e. the half is 2 weeks after the full.

I am going to see if I can do a couple of miles tomorrow - or the day after - my body will tell me! I am doing plenty of recovery eating, having ice baths, and walking around plenty (my jobs involves plenty of moving around - electrician).

So what tips do you have to ensure that I can complete the Leeds half? Hoping that someone has done this, so can pass on their experience of how to do it best. Not looking for a PB at Leeds, just a steady away completion and another medal for the collection.


Posted: 01/05/2012 at 07:22

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