After 26 miles, 26 tips to help you on your post-marathon path


Published: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 2, 2007 at 10:19 p.m.

Running a marathon is as exhausting as it is exhilarating, as aggravating as it is affirming. It's challenging and traumatizing, thrilling and perhaps even a bit dumbfounding.

Those who run one train for months, some even for years. They have set their sights on the finish line for so long they hardly remember when it wasn't on the horizon. To prepare, they have run distances some of us get antsy even driving. Rain, heat, wind, snow or shadows stop neither them nor their resolve.

Yet what happens after those three or four or five or six hours? After their feet and hearts and minds have carried them 26.2 miles?

Be prepared, the experts say. For fatigue, euphoria, soreness, elation, pain, a bit of the blues — perhaps all before you reach your car to drive home. Such feelings can last several weeks.

With that in mind, we sought tips and found them — 26 in all, give or take .2 — to help you on your post-marathon path, wherever it may take you.

1.

Be prepared, says Don Lucas, a marathon veteran. "When you're finished, you're still on a high, jubilant or absolutely fatigued. You may have difficulty getting to sleep; you have a lot of thoughts running through your mind."

2.

Feel free to never want to run another step. After Barbara Sucher, 61, finished her first marathon, she turned to a friend and uttered these words: "I will never, ever do this again." Fifteen minutes later, she was figuring out ways to train harder and lower her time. That was eight marathons ago, by the way.

3.

Realize you've done something pretty darn grueling. Even Lance Armstrong, after finishing the New York Marathon, proclaimed it the hardest physical thing he'd ever done.

4.

Rest. "Most studies we have out there indicate that even if you're well-conditioned for the marathon, you need six weeks or more for your body to bounce back from the efforts," says Lucas. Minor tears in your muscles could be exacerbated by rushing your recovery.

5.

Do something philanthropic. Dave Krempasky, 37, plans to volunteer for Meals on Wheels. "I'm not sure why the challenge of training for the marathon was put in front of me," he says. "When you get your heart pumping and your brain thinking as you run, you think, 'What am I here for? How can I have an impact on others?'"

6.

Let yourself feel down. "Something people don't realize," says Jennifer Kimble, 35, coordinator for Run On stores' marathon-training classes, "is that they've been training for six or seven months. Then they do the marathon and afterward they're like, 'Now what am I going to do?'"

7.

Get a pedicure.

8.

No running, or at least nothing beyond very light running, for the first week. Some experts recommend no more than 25 percent of your usual mileage.

9.

Sleep. David Smolka, 36, woke at 4 a.m. during his training. That way, he could run, shower, eat breakfast and be at his job as an elementary school principal by 7 a.m. He plans to sleep in this week — well, till 6 a.m., anyway.

10.

Get a massage. Marathon veteran Doug Caldwell, 59, of Plano, Texas, gets one after he finishes 26.2 miles. It's never too late, though.

11.

Plan on one day of recovery, rest or light workouts for every mile you've run. (You can fudge on the .2.)

12.

Revel. Scott Bracconier, 49, of Dallas, can't wait to wear his commemorative White Rock marathon T-shirt.

13.

Order photos of yourself crossing the finish line.

14.

Drive the route. Be amazed that you really ran all that way.

15.

Eat frequent high-carb meals, say the folks at runnersworld.com. They'll help replenish your stores of energy.

16.

Opt for a different kind of exercise. Walking or swimming will improve blood flow to your legs.

17.

Week No. 2, make sure your heart rate stays below 70 percent of its max. Keep mileage at 25 to 40 percent of average.

18.

Rest.

19.

Set a goal. It could be for another marathon, or to train for a 5K or 10K.

20.

If you've trained with a group, your lives have probably become intertwined. Make plans for an occasional run or a coffee date.

21.

Call everyone you know and tell them.

22.

Soak your feet.

23.

Next run you take, leave your watch, GPS and heart-rate monitor at home.

24.

Eat a cheeseburger. Rob Jones, 34, of Dallas, thinks about "the greasiest, biggest cheeseburger I can get my hands on" the last few miles of every marathon he runs.

25.

You're used to doing something every day, right? Well … did we say this yet? Rest. Your muscles will thank you. Whether you can tell or not, they've been damaged by working for 26.2 miles.

26.

If everyone's tired of hearing what you accomplished, e-mail us. You haven't told us yet.

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