After competing and finishing the challenging 26.2 mile race, your muscles are strained, you’re emotional and your ready to rest. But now is not the time to allow fatigue to take over, now is about how to have a proper recovery after running a marathon.

Your body has just experienced some major physiological changes, including hormone, metabolic, and thermoregulatory. Whether you’re an avid competitor or a first time runner, the after effects on the body can be significant and vary with each individual.

Unfortunately recovery from running long distances is generally overlooked and many people fail to understand the risk of post marathon fatigue.

There are several strategies to post race recovery which can aid you back into day to day life. If you plan to compete again this season, then a good recovery program is essential.

In this article we take the recovery journey with you, from finish line to facing your next big run.

Recovery after running a marathon - Image of the lower half of runners during a marathon. They are running towards the camera

Recovery after running a marathon

Over the Finish Line

So you managed to reach the finish line and the overriding joy of making it through seems to drain that last bit of energy from your legs, your brain will tell you to stop but KEEP GOING, especially if you feel dizzy. Keep moving, walk it out, even if it’s very slowly.

KEEP WARM by changing into dry clothes. Compression tights and calf sleeves can help aid recovery by boosting blood circulation so if you can’t wear them during the marathon, they are a good investment for your change of clothes.

DON’T RELY ON FOIL BLANKETS, many runners decide not to change and opt only for a foil blanket. This will not keep you warm, and it will certainly not help your muscle recovery.

Recovery after running a marathon - Lower half of marathon runners coming towards the camera

As soon as you can, GRAB SOME FOOD. You will be offered an energy bar as you complete your marathon, but don’t just settle for this. Seek out some more high energy foods like bananas or sports drinks to get your sugar levels back up.

If you can make it to a bath or shower then take full advantage. CONTRAST SHOWERS (alternating between hot and cold) are scientifically proven to help aid muscle recovery by opening and closing blood vessels, rushing oxygen-rich blood to your legs.
Some people opt for ice baths, some like a hot soak, there is much debate over which, if any, will help you recover, although it may make you feel better!

STRETCH, around 6 hours after the race, stretching too soon can hinder recovery.

It’s home time

Once you’re home or settled in your hotel, have a protein rich meal and HIT THE HAY.

The day after you will need to drag yourself out for a BRISK WALK to get the blood pumping to those legs again. If you really can’t bring yourself to get out of the house, try yoga or stretching.

Over the next few days, take your time to recover, keep up the light exercise, and stretching but be aware of any niggles or strains that you may now be starting to feel.

It is best to CROSS-TRAIN before you go back to pounding the pavement.

If you have blisters or sores on your feet give them a rest by wearing sandals or flip flops as much as you can. Take CARE OF YOUR FEET, don’t pop blisters and don’t continue to wear tight shoes if your feet are sore. We recommend you see a physiotherapist if you feel your feet are not recovering as they should.

Book yourself in for a SPORTS MASSAGE. Now most people would say “why not straight after the race, when it is provided for free?”, which would be ideal, however, the likelihood is you will be standing around waiting in queues to be seen and this would actually do you more harm than good.
So, if you’re home or staying in a hotel in London, get a sports massage booked in and flush out any lactic acid that has built up during the race.

Keep the bugs at bay by EATING A HEALTHY DIET. After your body has given you all it’s got, the likelihood is you may suffer from an illness a week or two after the race. This is normal. Eat healthy, with plenty of high energy foods and berries! (You should also keep up the brisk walks or gentle jogging to see yourself through any sickness.)

Recovery after running a marathon - Shot of the lower half of a male runner taking part in a marathon

By your third week you should start to get back to running at a good pace.

If you are planning a running multiple races in one season then it is extremely important that you follow the steps above and attend our running clinic where an experienced physiotherapist can provide you with simple and immediate advice on modifying your running style, recovery plan and training schedule to get the most from your efforts.

If you have suffered structural, fascial and metabolic issues while competing, we can assess your injury and form, to help you back on your feet and prevent further injury.

Remember, running a marathon doesn’t end at the finish line, proper recovery is just as important as preparation.