How To Overcome The Post-Race Blues
We often hear the same story: You spend months training for a big race—thee race—usually a marathon. You gun for a personal best, one of those goals you always thought you could achieve but never knew, until now, that you were capable of reaching. Crossing the finish line is one of the proudest moment of your life.
Then, for weeks following this peak experience, you struggle to get out the door. Running, quite simply, has lost its appeal, along with other things.
Indeed, thousands of runners feel this post-race depression each year. And for good reason. It’s really tough to suddenly shift from a four- to six-month training plan back to the routine of everyday life without something big to look forward to or drive you. The higher your emotions soar on the day of achievement, the lower you tend to feel afterward.
What Are the Post-Marathon Blues?
Post-marathon depression may not be a clinical diagnosis, but it’s real. To put it into context, when you accomplish any goal that you’ve been targeting for months, it’s only normal that a letdown of some sort is inevitable when it’s over. The past five or six months of your life have been dedicated to achieving this goal, and marathon training has, in large part, dictated your lifestyle.
Nutrition, sleep patterns, and even socializing has revolved around and been guided by your training. Basically, you’ve been living, breathing, and eating marathon training for months, so now that it’s over, is it really any wonder you feel lost?
But there are positives to this. You now have the freedom to sleep in, eat, drink, and socialize as you please. There are no more long runs or early wake-up calls, which can be both a relief and terrifying all at the same time.
What Are Some Post-Race Depression Signs?
Post-race depression signs include:
- Feeling a little lost
- Experiencing a lack of motivation to run
- Yearning for something to look forward to
- Feeling eager to set a new goal
- Feeling down, anti-social, sad, or disappointed—even if you hit your goal.
How to Ease Post-Race Depression
The good news: You can get through this slump. All you need are the right strategies to feel mentally and spiritually energized. Here’s what works.
Register for Another Race
Signing up for another race while still training for your big day or immediately after can build a motivational bridge through the difficult period of postrace blues. It doesn’t matter what the distance or your new goal is, because it’s okay to change it later. Plotting out your training in a training log or using a training app can help you figure out the best timing and distance for you. Most runners receive a sense of motivational security from this process.
Having a “next event” on the calendar keeps something on the horizon. If you choose this strategy, just be sure not to compromise your recovery time between events to help you avoid poor performances, burn out, or injury.
Use our race calendar to find your next race.
If your first mission was to finish a marathon, for example, choose a different type of challenge afterward, such as a scenic running trip, a trail race, an active vacation, or a yoga retreat. The logistics of planning it will engage your creativity skills during the tapering and rest periods before your initial big race and during the recovery afterward. Each mission should provide a touch of challenge, lots of fun, and a workout that will help you accomplish your next goal.
Rehearse Yourself Back to Running
Thinking about running goes a long way toward getting you back out the door. The more you can rehearse each run after the big day, the easier it will be to run as planned. That said, if your big goal was a marathon, you want to give yourself enough time to recover properly. For example, three to seven days after the race, visualize that you are running and walking for just 30 minutes slowly. Two days later, see yourself out there for 40 minutes, possibly with friends. Pencil it into your calendar to hold yourself accountable, but think about it as active recovery instead of putting pressure on yourself to get it done.
Gain 20/20 Hindsight
After the race, look back on your training and racing strategy. What did you do right? What should you have done differently? Analyzing a successful performance will help you replicate it again in the future. Visualize what you’d do next time to make the training experience even better, faster, and more fun. Analyzing a disappointing performance will help you pinpoint key problem areas that need more work. Write down these notes, and the path to your next goal will be smoother and straighter. By doing some fine-tuning, you’ll learn more about yourself and your running, and you’ll get over the race more quickly.
While training for a marathon or similar big race is good exercise, the repetitive nature of it is bound to result in some imbalances. Use this time after your race to identify those tight spots (looking at you quads) and weak areas (hello, glutes). Doing so will prep your body and balance your muscles for the next big goal ahead.
Run With a Group
During the final weeks before your goal race or immediately after, assemble a social running group to run with afterward. Social runs can entertain you as you share jokes, gossip, and running goals. Many recovering marathoners find it motivational to work out with beginning runners. By going slower than usual, you can easily converse with your new set of aerobic friends.
Regardless of what method you choose, find a way to incorporate what you learned from marathon training into your daily life. Try applying the same structure, organization, focus, and goal-setting to every day tasks. If you can do this, you’ll find that life and running can be just as exciting and fulfilling whether marathon training or not.