Beat the Post Marathon Blues. Seen on Competitor.com and written by Jeff Gaudette.
Whether you had a good race, bad day or mediocre performance, be smart about bouncing back after racing 26.2.
Contrary to popular belief, the marathon is not over once you cross the finish line. All the hard work and the mental nervousness will not cease to exist as soon as you are wrapped in that cozy mylar blanket. Experienced marathoners know this isn’t quite how things work out.
Whether you ran a great race, had a so-so performance, or just had a really bad day, within minutes after collecting yourself and coming to your senses, the post-marathon blues inevitably begin to set in. The post-marathon blues are the thoughts and actions that consume a runner’s mind for weeks after the race has finished. Preparing for a race that requires a long, intensive training block and can’t be run every weekend has that effect. It’s like the buildup to the Christmas as a kid — plenty of hype and excitement leading up to it, and then when it’s all over you feel a little deflated that have to wait another year before doing it again.
After a great race, most runners want to keep training to maintain their hard-earned fitness and see how far they can push their limits, while those that have a bad day might spend the next few hours searching the Internet for the soonest possible race where they can extract their revenge. Perhaps even worse, runners who have a mediocre race–especially if it’s the result of something out of their control–will dwell so long on the “what could have been” scenarios that their training will usually end up suffering for weeks.
So, regardless how your race went, how do you protect yourself from dwelling on the race and letting it negatively influence your training decisions? Let’s take a look at a few different answers in the following pages.
Redeeming Yourself After A Bad Race
Regrouping after a bad marathon is the most difficult kind of post-marathon blues to overcome. After putting in months of hard training and sacrifice you’re left sulking at the finish line with seemingly nothing to show for your efforts.
Worse yet, unlike a 5K or a 10K, you can’t just turn around and take another shot next weekend. Your muscles are damaged and you need to give them the proper time to recover or you risk overtraining in the short term and, inevitably, injury in the long term. For many runners, jumping right back into another race will more often than not lead to a vicious cycle of compromised training and poor race results.
What can you do after a bad race:
1. Think long-term.
A bad marathon doesn’t mean you didn’t make any progress. It’s important to remember that training is never wasted and doesn’t exist in a vacuum for that one goal race.
Each successful training segment builds upon itself. You train to achieve a new level of fitness, and once you’re able to reach this goal, you can build off that previous training block and continue to reach higher summits in your subsequent workouts. Each month you can train without unnecessary interruption is like putting money in the bank. That accumulated fitness will stay with you and allow you to build an even bigger base of training for the next race.
Running one bad race, as disappointing as it may be, only means that you didn’t have the chance to exhibit your newfound fitness. It doesn’t mean you’re not a better runner now than before you started your training segment.
2. Build confidence back by running a shorter distance race.
If you can learn to appreciate that you’re still making long-term progress despite the fact that your goal race didn’t go as planned, you can schedule a shorter race 4-6 weeks after your marathon to prove to yourself that the marathon was just one bad race.
While it isn’t instantaneous relief, turning your attention toward a shorter race still allows you to take the necessary recovery time after the marathon, yet enables you to display the hard-earned fitness you accumulated while training for the marathon. A well-timed short race can be the short-term confidence booster you need without sacrificing long-term goals.
2. Focus on the process, not the result.
Finally, remind yourself of this age-old lesson: “Focus on the process, not the result”. While it’s always preferable to finish off a marathon training segment with a new personal best, the real joy in running should come from the fun you had in training during the months leading up to the race and the new mental and physical heights you achieved along the way. Whether it was a great conversation you had with someone on a long run or conquering that workout you never thought possible, these are the moments you should remember.
Written by Jeff Gaudette
Jeff has been running for 13 years, at all levels of the sport. He was a two time Division-I All-American in Cross Country while at Brown University and competed professionally for 4 years after college for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. Jeff is certified by the USATF, the RRCA and has been featured in Running Times magazine, Endurance Magazine, as well as numerous local magazine fitness columns.