Marathon recovery

Recovery is a very personal thing; that much is obvious to anyone who does endurance sport. Whether it’s the recovery needed between reps on a track, or recovery after an A race, it’s a very personal thing.

After running the London Marathon two weeks ago, I was in massive need of some good recovery time. I raced carrying an illness (FYI, not something I would ever advocate as a doctor, but we do make the worst patients), and had a really tough time of it. Afterwards, my cough came back with a vengeance, I was utterly knackered and absolutely everything hurt.

Fairly soon, my Strava filled up with people going for ‘recovery runs’ with their clubs barely slower than their marathon race pace only days earlier. My Twitter and Instagram was filled with selfies of runners out showing off their race tshirts. Have they all recovered spectacularly quickly?! Are they clearly a lot fitter than me?! These were the thoughts I initially had.

On reflection though, I remembered that recovery is far more important than most people give it credit for, so I focused on doing my own thing. On not running a single step until my body felt ready and I really wanted to; something I think is very underestimated but pretty important in recovery from a big race- not starting training again until you feel the need to train coming back. Until you feel ready.
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So what have the past two weeks involved for me? A full week initially where other than work, I did nothing taxing. I had plenty of hot baths (Radox Muscle Therapy, you are a bath soak of dreams), and gave my legs, particularly my battered quads, some gentle massage. I did some of the easiest Jasyoga videos and really focused on how my body felt during them. I ate well, focusing on balanced meals, with plenty of protein and carbs, and the odd treat in there, because 4 months of training and a marathon is a long slog. I also watched a LOT of TV. Hello new Game of Thrones! As far as I can when working, I prioritised sleep too.

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This week, I was itching to get moving again, but I made sure I did it gently. An easy spin on the bike out to my favourite cafe for lunch with James. A 20 minute easy jog around my village, focusing on just enjoying it. A welcome return to my favourite club ride out to Bolton Abbey for coffee. All things I wanted to do (especially with a new bike begging for a test ride), and none of them with any pressure on pace, or distance, or anything but fresh air and enjoyment. And you know what? It’s made me hungry to get out there and back into proper training now.
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All these things are underrated, but reading more into recovery and how elite athletes do it, these are the small things that add up, and keep the fire for training and self-improvement burning, rather than burning out halfway through every season because the athletes have completely overdone it. It’s how other than odd niggles that have required a bit of rest and extra attention, I haven’t had a proper injury for over two years now.

There’s a lot to be said for recovery, and I think it’s an underrated art.

2 thoughts on “Marathon recovery

  1. Lauren (@poweredbypb)

    YES to all of this! Recovery is hugely underrated, I always take quite a lengthy break after a training period is over, I am just getting back to it after a solid 3 weeks of doing very little post SDW50. I know people who were out the next day after the race though, and I just wonder what the long term effects of not taking recovery seriously can be. I think it’s more the stuff we can’t see like hormones etc that need a serious recovery period, and it’s why I’m happy to give my body all the rest it needs post race! #resthard

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  2. Autumn

    I completely agree. Having only ran two marathons I’m hardly an expert at long distance running, but I knew my body was in need of a rest. After both marathons I took almost a full month off running, just partaking in the occasional jog as and when i felt like it, but absolutely no running at all for the first week post-marathon.

    I know that everyone’s different and people with more experience of marathons might need a little less recovery time, or those who ‘ran’ a marathon as opposed to ‘raced’ a marathon might feel good to go just a couple of days later, but I do worry when I see people jump straight back into the racing scene. I may have lost a little speed after my recovery month but it soon comes back and I felt so much better (both mentally and physically) for the break.

    Well done on your marathon and for recovering like a boss! xx

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