How To Successfully Recover After A Marathon

Every recovery is different, but here are some strategies that can help speed up yours.

Jenny Hadfield and Runner's World Editors |

First of all, congratulations! You just completed a marathon. While the hard work is over, there is still some work to be done: recovery.

Post-race recovery is kind of like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. There are a host of variables that can affect your marathon recovery such as the intensity of the race, the elements, your health, and training season. Every recovery is different, but there are several strategies you can employ post-race that will aid in speeding the rate of recovery so you don’t have to avoid the stairs all week.
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Stretch, Roll, and Massage

Wait at least two to six hours after the race to stretch and foam roll and at least 24 hours for a massage. This allows your muscles time to replenish fluids and energy lost and recover from the demands of the race.

Give Yourself a Break

One of the most common mistakes runners make is running too soon after a marathon. Think of the marathon like a car accident (pleasant, huh?). Your body has been through a tough season of training and 42.2km on the road. The best way to recover is not to do more damage by going out for a run the next day (that is your ego talking). Take the day to celebrate. Schedule a massage and do some light walking and stretching. Or tear a page from the women’s world record holder Paula Radcliffe’s book and take a month off to recover, do yoga, and cross train.

For guidance, try this four week plan:

Week 1: Cross train, rest, and test the waters.

Invest the first week in short, light effort, low-impact cross training activities that will boost circulation, warm your muscles and aid in the healing journey (think: walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, or Pilates). If all feels well later that week, run a short, easy-effort run (30 minutes) to test the waters.

Week 2: Run short and easy.

If things still hurt, keep cross training and let it simmer. If you feel good, start back to your normal running frequency in week two, but keep the effort easy and the distance shorter (30 to 60 minutes).

Week 3: Run longer and a little faster.

If things are still going well and your body feels good, ease back into distance and intensity in week three.

Week 4: Return to regular volume or training.

Now that you’ve slowly got your body back into a regular running routine, you can return to your pre-marathon schedule if you feel good. If you’re running multiple races in one season it is vital to invest in optimal recovery time.

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