Beating the Post-Race Blues
If you just ran the Disneyland® Half Marathon, the weeks after the race can be tough: You feel accomplished, yet let down. Exhausted, but restless. Months ago, you were in the throws of training; just weeks ago, you couldn’t get your mind off the race. Now it’s all in your rearview mirror...sigh.
What now? Here are some cures for the post-race blues—otherwise known as PRB—that we’ve used and have come from some helpful mother runners on our Facebook page.
When polled, four out of five mother runners said they experienced PRB. Okay, we didn’t get that scientific, but feeling down after a race is as common as a teenager who responds only in monosyllables. “I just finished my first half marathon yesterday,” says Kirsten, a mother runner. “Felt amazing. Better than maybe ever. Today? Bad day. Really bad day.” When you cross a finish line, you feel full of life, pride, accomplishment, and then with every step after it, a little air is released from your “yay me!” bubble. That doesn’t always happen, but realize if it does, it’s totally normal.
Recap your race.
If you're like us, you’re certain you'll remember that pre-race dinner of your sister-in-law’s favorite pasta dish made you feel like you were hauling rocks in your belly while you ran. Then five months pass, it’s the night before your next race, you think, “Oh yeah, I love that pasta dish,” and you're right back to sinking like a stone. Instead, write down what worked for you and what didn't. Did you start out too fast or cross the finish line with energy left in your engine? Wish you’d run up the hills (they’re over more quickly that way!) instead of walking them? Take five minutes and write it down. Your log will quickly become a source of insight and inspiration.
But don’t dwell.
Yes, we just told you to pick apart your race, and now we're telling you to let it go. Unless the day was 55 degrees and overcast, your training was flawless, your body just hummed, and your head was focused, chances are there was something to be improved on. Acknowledge it, write it down, then move on. Whether your race made you flush with pride—or regret—celebrate your race for what it was: a day when you put yourself on the line. Not many people willingly put themselves out there. Be proud you did.
Put your legs up.
Although having another goal down the road definitely helps—more on that in a minute—be sure to let your body recover. A helpful, oft-used recovery equation is this: For every mile you raced, enjoy that number of easy days. So for 3.1 miles of a 5K, you'd spend the next three days chilling or doing easy workouts. For a 10K, you've bought yourself nearly a week, and after a marathon, nearly a month. Even though your legs may protest, a short walk or quick spin on your bike the day after a race is always a good call. (Oxygen-rich healing blood to the rescue!) For the rest of your recovery time, realize that "easy" doesn't mean "non-existent." You can—and should—run, but keep your mileage and speed in the low- to moderate-zone so your legs can recover, injuries are kept at bay and you can nail your next race.
Have another finish line in your future.
If you’re training for your first half or full marathon, enter a 5K or 10K six to eight weeks after your longer race. The distance will feel blissfully “short,” and the goal will help keep your juices flowing. (Sign up while you're still training for the double-digit run; sometimes lethargy likes to hang with PRB.) After a marathon, maybe a 10K or a blazing 5K is the right distance.
Take care of yourself…
When you’re feeling yuck, nothing good can come from overdosing on sugar or fried, cheesy things or staying up until 11:30 p.m. to watch “16 Candles” for the 13th time. Instead, eat like you know you should and get to bed early. Caroline, a mother runner, likes to head to a yoga class, read a book and admire her race photos (“admire” was our word…). Similarly, treat your toes to a pedicure or your muscles to a massage.
Finally, heed this suggestion from Tammy, a mother runner, who admits she can get a little teary after a race is over. “One thing that always helps me [get over the blues] is to do something for a neighbor or a friend just because. By making someone else happy, it carries over to my own well-being.”
Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell are the authors of Another Mother Runner and official contributors to runDisney.