After your marathon you might be desperate to get out training again or you might be inclined to hang up your trainers for a while (hopefully not for good!). But how long does it take to recover after a marathon? How long should you rest after the race? When can you start running again after a marathon? These are questions many runners ask. Do too much too soon and you risk injury. Leave it too long and you’re out of the habit of running and getting back to a routine becomes harder.
How long does it take to recover after a marathon?
There’s no one set plan for runners after a marathon. Everyone’s fitness level and recovery time is different. It usually takes around four weeks for a full and complete recovery after a marathon.
You may take longer to recover if:
- You’re an older runner – repair processes tend to slow with age
- This is the first time you’ve ever run this distance
- Your training for the marathon wasn’t ideal – a sudden big step up in distance can cause extra stress on the body
- You pushed yourself extra hard on marathon day and really emptied the tank
- You picked up an injury during the event
- You are unwell. It’s not uncommon to pick up common colds after mass participation events. Your body has extra work to do to get you better alongside the post run repairs.
Take all of these factors into account and you can see why there’s no one size fits all. It’s definitely a time to take it day by day and see how you feel.
When can I run again after a marathon?
Advice about when to return to running will vary with some experienced runners happy to do a recovery run the following day, but, assuming you are a reasonably regular runner, had to really dig deep to get across the finish line and could hardly walk the next day due to muscle soreness, then here is a rough guide:
- Don’t plan to run for the first week.
- Rest and allow your body to heal, repair and recover.
- Do be frequently active, walking gently in the first day or two for 15 to 30 minutes.
- After four days, the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) should be easing off so you can increase your walking and add in some gentle, low impact exercise such as swimming or cycling.
- After seven days, if you feel you have recovered (see below) then start with a short, very easy run and see how you feel.
- Gradually build up your running frequency, distance and intensity according to how your body feels.
- Don’t forget to return to the strength work – it’s not just for marathon training plans!
How do I know if I’m ready to run after a marathon?
Knowing when to return to running is generally a case of being sensible and being patient! Keep in mind that your body has taken a bashing and while it’s able to repair itself, it can take time. Here are some things to consider:
- Can you walk without any pain at all?
- Can you walk or jog with your normal gait?
- Are your blisters and chafed skin fully healed?
- Can you stand on one leg, hop and twist and turn and feel confident in your muscle strength, balance and co-ordination?
- Do you feel mentally ready to run? Never run because you feel you should, only because you want to.
You have to be physically and mentally ready to run again. Most runners are keen to get back to it and move onto their next challenge but for others it’s more complex. If you had a bad or disappointing experience on race day you might feel very negative about running. If you feel your body let you down, it might take time to even want to build up that trust again. You might be confused or surprised by your lack of desire to run or even be experiencing the post marathon blues. These feelings are all normal and common. Take your time. Take a break away from running if you want to and try something else. Running will always be there for you.
If you’ve enjoyed this blog then you’ll love my book Run Well: Essential health questions and answers for runners, published by Bloomsbury and available everywhere you buy books.