• Helen Phillips

Recover Right After Your Race

Has machismo taken over running?

I've lost count of the number of running friends who, after running a marathon, or another race, are back pounding the pavements the next day … posting to Facebook “look at me … look a me … I’m ‘recovered’ and back running … boy that 10k was tough, but I’m back!”

The implication is that rest and recovery after a race is for wimps!

The rest of us, still struggling with stairs or getting off the sofa, feel inadequate, ‘unfit’ and unworthy of calling ourselves runners … despite race bling around our neck and a finishers T-shirt (that we’ve slept in and won’t come off for another 6 months) still on.

#eyerolling #ohdear!

Then all of a sudden silence. They're lost from Strava and gone quiet on Facebook. That niggle they'd been ignoring has turned nasty, they’ve come down with the flu or found they’re actually fed up with forever running.

You see, running a marathon is a massive challenge. Preparing for and running your first marathon will test you to your limits. You need to celebrate and bask in your achievement BEFORE you get back out there again to run.

Read on to find out more about why you need to Recover Right After Your Race.

What is recovery and why is it so important?

Recovery after running a race is important to repair, rest and refuel your body, and return you to a ‘normalised’ state. It’s a chance to bask in post race glory (regardless of your time … if you’ve ran a marathon you’re awesome!), reflect on your race (what went well and what you’ll do different next time) and training programme and plans.

Rest IS Recovery!

The hours and days after you cross the finish-line matter and rest is important. Whilst you’re resting, your body isn’t ‘inert’, it’s not wasted time and you’re definitely not a wimp or ‘running looser’ to want to rest.

When you’re resting your body is working hard on recovery so you can get your body and mind back to ‘normal’ to be ready for more running, if that’s what you want to do!

After running a marathon you will have pushed your body and your mind (remember running a marathon is 50% a mental challenge) to it’s limits so it’s perfectly normal to feel sore, tired, exhausted or just ‘done in’ in the days and for a good bit of time following your race.

Whilst the initial physical symptoms of your race usually ‘sort themselves out’ after a few days (sitting on the loo isn’t the major challenge it was on Monday and you can get downstairs without a Stannah Stairlift or sliding on your bum) if you start back running or training too soon you’ll realise that you’re not fully fit which can be frustrating.

It takes about a month to recover from a marathon

That doesn’t mean a month of total rest, rather a few weeks of taking your running steady and easing yourself back into running and training (if you’re wanting to train for your next event).

So what can you do to help with marathon race recovery?

Active Recovery

Whilst I don’t recommend going out and trying to bash out a fast set of sprint intervals in the first few days after your race, I DO recommend you get out, get going and DO SOMETHING, whether that’s a short easy jog, long walk, short swim or ride on your bike. Active recovery moves your body, gets the blood flowing which helps remove ‘metabolic toxins’ produced from your run from your body.

If you’re wanting to get out for a run, leave your watch at home (Strava won’t worry if you’re missing a few K … even if your Garmin screams at you to ‘MOVE’ the moment you’re back!) and try a very easy and gentle jog when you feel ready. Build up your efforts over the next few days and weeks SLOWLY using your runs as recovery, not as training!

Foam Rolling and Sports Massage

Foam rolling is a great recovery tool and it’s more effective than stretching. Foam rolling helps to flush out metabolic waste from your running from your body, it helps with circulation as well as to ease and loosen tight and worked muscles.

If you’re planning to have a sports massage after your marathon, I’d leave it a few days, until the initial inflammation and soreness has subsided.


Good sleep is THE BEST way to recover. When you get good quality deep sleep human growth hormone is released, which helps build and repair tissues. If you don't get enough sleep, your body produces more cortisol, which interferes with this tissue repair.

The night after your marathon sleep might be fitful. Your muscles will be sore and your metabolism still high, which could make zzz’s hard to come by.

So make sure you schedule in some early nights the following week to help your body recover and repair.


Good nutrition is critically important to help your body recover from a race. After a hard race, you need to replenish the carbohydrates you will have burnt running and eat protein to help your body start to repair your worked muscles.

You might not feel like eating much after your marathon, but it’s critical that you do. Your body is crying out for quality nutrients and won’t thank you if you’re not giving it what it needs.

Think lean protein, quality carbs and plenty of fruit and veg and you’ll be helping yourself heal from your race.

Take a Break

Finally, after training hard for a few months it’s also important for your body and mind to take a complete break from running. Don’t feel guilty about going on holiday and not running for a few weeks after your marathon.

If you’re a regular runner, who runs to rest, relax and recuperate from the stresses of life, taking a break can be hard, but you’ll feel rested, relaxed and recuperated after which will help your overall running performance and long term fitness.

If you’re running a spring marathon and want to get ‘back in the game’ with your nutrition and running early May I’m starting an Eat Right for Running coaching programme. Over 12 weeks we’re going to focus on balanced healthy eating, eating the right foods at the right time for your running and in the right amounts so you can lose the stubborn marathon training pounds you’ve put on.

Click HERE to email me to find out more.