When the marathon was over, I didn’t really know how to feel. I was tired, sore, and struggling to walk. All I could think about was how I was sure I was done running marathons. I kept thinking to myself, “I worked so hard to feel like this?” But that second day, post marathon, I could walk. I finally got to take the time to reflect on all that went into becoming a marathoner.
I realized I had never been happier than I was while training for my first marathon. I loved having a plan, a schedule, a routine. I loved knowing when to run, how much effort was to go into a run, and the thrill of finishing a run, bringing me that much closer to the biggest challenge of my life. I enjoyed running long runs on Sundays, earlier than most people get up, and enjoying brunch as a reward. I loved running for fun, and letting the run be whatever it was. I was happy to finally learn how to become mentally strong, so I could ignore those moments that I wanted to give up. I enjoyed crossing off weekly mileage on the calendar, and watching my monthly totals grow beyond anything I ever imagined being capable of. I learned to love running on the trail, and being one with nature, sometimes barely missing coyotes and bears as they ran out in front of me. I learned to love running. Running became a part of me. The habit of running turned into a desire to run. So it was only natural to feel the post marathon blues.
The first couple of days were manageable, but then I just wanted to run. I was so excited I was “cleared” to run, per the recovery plan, and laced up my shoes without any hesitation. But I was quickly overwhelmed with this feeling of nervousness and anxiety. “What if I can’t run? What if it hurts? What if I lost my pace? I don’t want to start over.” I couldn’t believe I was allowing myself to become so worked up over my first run back. I was getting angry at myself. I wanted the excitement back. So I just ran. I probably ran way faster than I should have (7:20 pace), but it felt good. I was pretty much saying “in your face” to myself the entire time. Then the second mile came, and I was riding the struggle bus like no one ever has. I couldn’t breath right, my cadence was a mess, and my mind was getting the best of me. I finished, and was surprised my pace was pretty darn decent. I felt “great”, but it was almost like a forced feeling.
I decided I was going to take the next day to just focus on myself, so I did more yoga than I’d care to admit. I spent time talking with other runners, and asking them what it was like after they finished their first marathon. And then I went hiking with my BFF. It was nice to catch up with her, and get her side of things, post marathon. When our feelings were pretty spot on, I felt better about things. It’s okay to feel tired, it’s normal to feel like running is “hard”. It’s okay to not be at the pace you were before. Your body was put through the ringer, and giving it adequate time to repair and recover is vital.
So where am I now? Well daylight savings hasn’t helped make getting into the swing of things any easier, but I’m following the marathon recovery plan. Don’t let that kid you though, I still feel lost, and confused. I still miss the runner’s high I had while training. But I’m maintaining my fitness, and slowly working my way back to the level I was at pre-marathon.
The plan is to continue following the recovery running plan for two more weeks, and then focus on strength training, cross-training, flexibility, and speed. I’ve got big goals for this next year, and I cannot wait to start crossing things off the list. I am going to be focusing a lot of my energy into my yoga practice, and overall strength in the near future. I know focusing on those areas will make me a stronger runner. My husband also got me into cycling during marathon training, but I was not able to really put any bit of effort into it, because I did not want it to interfere with my running schedule. I really want to dive into that, and see what it does for these running legs. Maybe in the future I’ll even attempt a triathlon. 🙂
My future goals, for this year, may not be bigger or better, or a new distance, but they are goals, and they are important to my running career. I want get stronger, faster, and focus on improving my half marathon time. I want my 5k time to become my time for long distances, and for it to feel comfortable. I want to dive into the sport of running, and find out everything I can about it. I want to take my love for the sport and share it with the world. I want to inspire others. I want to coach people. I want people to see running how I see it. I will run another marathon, but I will run it better, faster, and more knowledgeable.
The key to beating the blues is to get out there. Keep running. Keep smiling. Keep remembering how running makes you feel. It will get easier. It will come back. You’ve done something only 1% of the world has ever done. That in itself is enough to make anyone motivated. Make new goals. Sign up for the “next race”. Find a new challenge. Broaden your horizons. Do what makes you happy. And never forget how crossing the finish line made you feel.