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Marathon Recovery – Injury Free

Posted by: on March, 19 2012

Published by Dr. Pribut on DrPribut.com

Recovering From The Marathon: The Reverse Taper, by Stephen M. Pribut, DPM

Reverse Taper: After The Marathon

Now that the marathon is over, what do you do next? So many books, articles and friends have helped you get this far, but then the advice becomes vague or conflicting. Should you run the day after to clear out the toxins in your system or should you rest? Should you pig out on hot dogs,pizza, and beer in a post marathon party? The thought of that makes my stomach quesy.

You should view the next 4 to 6 weeks as a reverse taper. No running for the first week will help you more than light running. So rest it will be. The next week you’ll do some 20 – 30 minute runs and build it back up over the subsequent weeks. Eat healthy. A high carbohydrate diet in the first few days will help replenish your depleted carb storage system and protein will help to rebuild damaged muscle tissue. Soups, juices, breads and all that healthy sort of food will probably taste great too. Lots of sleep, some easy walks and you’ll be ready to run again in no time. Remember that the basic recovery process takes about a month and during this time you will have to continue to rest, run easy, avoid speed work, and keep your carbohydrate load high.

“You should view the next 4 to 6 weeks as a reverse taper.”

If you have performed well in one marathon be careful not to run and race too soon because you are at a high risk for injury during the next 6 to 8 weeks. Running another marathon or a fast 10K or 10 miler or deciding to do another 20 mile training run between marathons that are spaced too close together could be enought to cause a lingering injury.

The rule of one day of recovery for each mile raced or perhaps one day for each kilometer raced for masters runners and novices is a rule to keep in mind. The marathon was 26.2 miles or approximately 42.2 kilometers. Make sure you take the time to properly recover. If you are having serious pain, more than the usual post-marathon aches and pains, you should visit a sports medicine specialist, otherwise you may follow the advice in this article to try to prevent injury and allow for recovery.

Immediate Post Marathon

The first thing to do, if you are still standing and uninjured, is not to sit or lie down. If you do lie down, you will have great difficulty getting motivated to stand up again. Try to get out of the finish line crowd and walk for a brief period of time to cool down. Continue to replace your fluids, which of course you’ve done a great job of while running, eat some high carbohydrate food shortly after finishing. Do take that silvery mylar cape. Even if you don’t feel cold right now it is likely that in 15 minutes you’ll be cooled off and need that vest.

If possible get into some dry clothes after you’ve picked up your bags at the baggage tent. Before you take that ride home walk for 10 to 15 minutes and if you are up to it try another 15 minute walk that evening. Gently stretch.

Post Marathon Evening

Lots of carbs should be on the plate tonight. Something similar to your carbohydrate loading program, with a bit of extra protein thrown in will work just fine. I don’t see a reason for alcohol after your system has just done the marathon so it is not on my recommended list. Freshly squeezed lemonade, orange or grapefruit juice or other juices would probably better assist your recovery. While a cold bath is probably better for the muscles, I know that a warm one will feel better followed by some gentle stretching.

“you are at a high risk for injury during the next 6 to 8 weeks”

Think about your positive accomplishments. Don’t dwell on the negatives. If you went out too fast for conditions, remember that for the next time. Negative splits work best, but now – it’s time for rest. Try to get to sleep a little earlier than usual and be prepared to walk a little funny tomorrow.

The Day After

The day after the marathon is a good day for a very slow 15 to 20 minute walk. Keep eating healthy. Avoid the temptation to run. Studies have shown that those who rest for a full week after the marathon actually perform better than those who run that week. Besides that, remember that running with an altered gait, from muscle soreness and stiffness, can lead to injuring some other part.

Eat and relax. While the Kenyans have their favorite food for carbs, this year I’ve found mine. Besides pasta of all sorts, I made Risotto the keystone of my carbohydrate loading and recovery program. It goes great with the standard flavors of Gatorade.

Week 1

No running, lots of rest, healthy diet.

Week 2

Light, short runs.

Week 3

More easy runs, some tempo runs at 15 – 30 seconds faster than marathon pace.

Week 4

Gentle tempo runs and strides. Increase distance gradually of runs. Keep doing those easy runs.

Week 5

More tempo runs and strides. Slightly longer long run.

Week 6

Almost back to normal. Don’t try to set a 10K record just yet. That is an easy way to become injured. Start a gradual speed program now. Plan for the next racing season.


Start thinking about your future goals. Should you focus on shorter races to improve your speed in the next season? Try to build back up to weekly 8 to 12 mile runs, which are good for almost any distance you’d like to run. You might want to add in some track work: 400s, 800s, 1200s, and the occasional mile as a test to see where you are. You might want to try some trail running. If you aren’t ready to focus on your goals just yet, just go out and enjoy the running. Take another few months before you decide what your goals are.The primary goal is to enjoy your runs.