Be proud, all the hard work has paid off; but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the finish line is the end of the line when it comes to looking after yourself. Having pushed your body to the limit, you should follow a simple set of post-race tactics over the next few hours, days and weeks to make sure recovery is as swift and straightforward as possible.
Immediately after completing the marathon you should fight the urge to fall to the floor. Remain standing, and continue to walk for a short distance. Doing this allows your body to gradually work its way back to its resting state and will help to reduce lactic acid build up in your muscles.
Take advantage of the foil blanket if one is available, this will keep your body temperature from dropping too quickly which can cause muscle stiffness. It is also worth remembering that your immune system will have taken a knock and so you are at greater risk of infection - make sure you have clean, dry clothes to change into as soon as possible.
Stretch it out
We all know the importance of stretching after a run, but in the excitement of race day this can be all too easily overlooked. Making sure you carry out a thorough stretching sequence; it will go far in returning your muscles to their pre-race state, helping to avoid unnecessary injury and minimise stiffness the following day. You will become very aware of muscles you never knew existed; but by taking your body’s recovery seriously you can limit this pain substantially.
In the minutes after crossing the finishing line, make sure you pick up a drink and something to eat – perhaps a sports energy drink and a banana to start the process of replenishing what your body has lost during the race. Bear in mind that your body will absorb this ‘fuel’ most effectively within 30-60 minutes after your race has finished.
Hydration is key
Continue to hydrate yourself throughout the day with water and other electrolyte fuelled drinks. It is a good idea to put the celebratory glass of champagne on hold until the following day; over-indulging can lead to further dehydration and is not advisable.
Take advantage of a a post race massage, Sports massage therapist Sophie Molloy says: “I’d avoid having a massage straight after the race, particularly if you are suffering from any injuries. However if you feel that you have to have one then make sure that it is very gentle. It is best to leave anything firmer until a couple of days after the race – if there are micro tears in the muscles as a result of the marathon then a firm massage might increase the tear and make them worse if it is done too soon.”
All in all a massage is a great way to soothe the aches and strains that running a marathon can cause and that it will also aid your recovery is an added bonus!
Fill your boots
In the hours after the race, thoughts will turn to food - speed your recovery by eating plenty of carbohydrate and protein based snacks. Carbohydrates are important in the days after the marathon in order to replenish your depleted carb resources and protein will help to rebuild damaged muscle tissues.
Give your digestive system time to return to its normal state. It’s usually better to snack over the course of the day than to have one large meal. And it goes without saying that at least one of these snacks should be a super indulgent sweet and tasty treat!
Time for a soak
Before bed time take a soak in a cold bath, not exactly a treat but this will help relieve your aches and pains. As tempting as a hot bath may be, it is not advisable as the heat may further irritate already lactic acid-soaked muscles.
And so to bed
Get yourself to bed nice and early; plenty of rest will aid your recovery as this is the time that your body builds muscle and repairs any damage.
No running allowed
The day after the race, head out for a casual 15 to 20 minute walk to avoid stiffening of the muscles but avoid the temptation to jog or run. Try out more ‘low impact’ activities such as swimming or cycling to keep your body mobile as it recovers.
Plan the following four to six weeks in reverse order to the weeks leading up to the marathon. The week following race day should be run-free, but the week after that you can start to build up your runs again, allowing yourself 20-30mins at a time.