Combating the Post-Marathon Blues

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It’s been three weeks since the Chicago Marathon. Most of us are no longer caring for our sore, pride-filled muscles, and have probably already hit some double digit runs in this cooler weather. Yet, the memory is vivid and, for some, may cause a bit of sadness.

Post-marathon blues are a real thing that many runners experience. Think about it. You’ve trained for 6-12 months for this massive event, causing emotional and physical effects all over your body. You may have traveled to Chicago to race, taken off work, put your pets in the trustworthy hands of a caregiver, and dragged your family out to the cold streets of Chicago to join the millions of other cheerleaders. Race day is intense as you crowd into your corral and experience the magic of a World Marathon Major.

Within those 26.2 miles you go through every emotion from elation to pain to anger to pride. And then, it’s over. After you cross that finish line, you’ve reached an incredible milestone in life, but you’re done.

And with all of the training resources and coaching plans, very few warnings are given to runners about the post-marathon blues. For me, the blues usually set in a few days after the marathon. My body returns to normal and life continues, but a sadness comes upon me that my A-race is over. Every runner handles the blues differently.

Jeff Jameson, a three-time finisher of the Chicago Marathon and an Ironman, stated, “I definitely experience the blues after finishing a marathon or any major race. When I have been training for and thinking about one race for several months, it feels strange to no longer have that goal to focus on. There is a definite sense of sadness. Even if I have another race on my schedule, I still try to take a couple days to reflect on that big day. It’s an incredible high to finish a marathon and you’ll want to talk about it with everyone. (Your family and friends will probably be used to that by now). I try to use the days after to take a little bit of a break from everything. Reduce your training and focus more on recovery. Your body needs it physically and mentally and when you’re ready you’ll come back stronger and more focused for your next big race.”

Recovery is such a big part of training that often gets overlooked. Whether you choose cryotherapy, ice baths, foam rolling, yoga, or just reducing your mileage, recovery is necessary for your body and will reduce your chances of burn out.

Megan Sloan, Chicago Marathon finisher agreed, “Take the time to let your body (and mind) recover. Keep yourself busy so you feel accomplished (even if it’s not athletically).  Do the things you don’t usually have time for! Your running shoes and races will always be waiting for you after you recover. If you’re chasing big goals, remember that you need to let your fitness get worse before you can make it better, which is why the extended rest period is the best option.”

“I struggle the week following the race,” explained Sloan. “My body is in recovery mode even after the soreness is gone so I WANT to work out, but I know I need to let it rest. However, being a triathlete, I usually spend more time in the pool than anywhere else the week after the marathon. It’s not stressful on the joints and it allows my body to MOVE which is what helps speed up recovery.”

Lynn Crim has finished 28 marathons and is all too familiar with post-race blues. “Every marathon I’ve run (28) I’ve experienced serous post-race blues. It is similar to finishing a class that you’ve been focused on for half a year.  I’ve learned to focus on the next event and schedule a race for the next weekend. Find projects to occupy your time with goals. You’ve been training for over four months with a goal in mind that is now complete and you need replace it other goals.”

Chicagoan Fredricka Holloway made the important point that Chicago winters don’t exactly help the post-race fall marathon blues. “I can’t say I go through any post-race blues, but I have experienced being in a ‘funk’. There are times I don’t feel as motivated to train, run, swim or bike. And living in Chicago during the winter doesn’t help because the cold and early dark days/nights can have me feeling down, uninspired, or lazy.”

Holloway stressed the importance of running groups to stay accountable and remain connected to fellow athletes. Chicago has so many options through CARA that are regionally accessible. “It’s also good to change things up a bit or try something new to keep things exciting like yoga, a new spin class, a dance class, skiing or anything to keep active & spirits high.”

Teri Visovatti, Chicago Marathon finisher, had the following advice that is truly in line with the Chicago spirit. “Buck up! Take some time to yourself. Try not to be in a rush to sign up for your next event to “conquer”. Just because you finished a race of x distance doesn’t mean that you have to graduate to the next. Enjoy yourself. Set some goals. Reach out to people that maybe you missed spending time with while you were training. Encourage others to join you! If you did some fundraising for a charity, send out specialized thank you notes, gifts, or whatever. Catch up on your life! When a bit of time has passed, then have at it and find a running group, friends to run with, a race, or whatever it is you want!”

The message is simple. Post marathon blues are real and are felt in almost every runner, novice or experienced. Realize that you’re not alone in feeling this way and remember, you’re a Chicagoan, so buck up, grab a pal, and go for a run! But, don’t forget to recover!

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Mandi began running in middle school and never stopped. As a high school and college cheerleader, running was the exact athletic counterpart to keep her fitness levels high. While attending The John Marshall Law School in 2007, Mandi ran her first Chicago Marathon, the final year it was partnered with title sponsor, LaSalle Bank. Mandi has continued to run several marathons and half marathons each year. An Illinois licensed attorney, Mandi is currently the Executive Director of the Lake County Municipal League, a council of government representing 42 municipalities in Lake County. An avid weekend race warrior, Mandi tries to run 2-3 races each month from Milwaukee to Chicago and loves the opportunity to report about her experiences in Chicago Athlete

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