Have you just completed your first marathon? Hit a running goal you’ve been working towards for ages? Maybe you’re about to stand on a start line and give it your all.

I hesitate to sound negative amongst the congratulations and excitement but I do want warn you about something. I first wrote about this in 2015, it’s a rarely spoken about topic. Something that might be unexpected, out of character and could catch you unawares. If you’ve had a little warning, you can stop this pesky thing in its tracks, so let’s just take a bit of time to discuss it, after all being forewarned is being forearmed.

And that thing is the post-marathon blues. I hadn’t heard of this until I was in the toilet queue for my first marathon in 2013. I meet some really interesting people in race toilet queues. Anyway, after establishing it was my first marathon, the woman in front of me said, ‘Watch out, I got really depressed after my first marathon, it wasn’t how I expected and it was awful’. At the time, I thought it was a particularly unhelpful thing to say. I thought she was a bit of a spoil sport to be honest. What a thing to mention before I’d even run the race!

She was however absolutely right and I’m so grateful for her warning. I didn’t get depressed after the marathon but once the dust had settled and the prolonged runner’s high finally melted away, there was a bit of a void. A feeling of ‘what now’?  I’d done what I’d always wanted to do… for years. It was almost as if I’d used up all those happy, feel-good endorphins and the cupboard was empty. My reaction was mild compared to some stories I’ve since heard. People do actually get depressed and struggle to move on.

You can suddenly not want to run. You might have no idea what you want to do at all. Tiredness, lethargy, apathy can set in. There’s confusion and disappointment about why you feel like this. It’s not what you were expecting. It feels all wrong and you wonder why you bothered to do all that training in the first place if this is the result. You certainly don’t feel like conquering the world like people told you would. It’s rubbish really.

Spring marathon season is upon us and many of you will be tackling this distance for the first time. You’ve devoted hours of your life to preparing for it. Alongside the running there’s been the reading about running, the food prep, the stretching and the all-important resting. You know how to lace trainers, deal with cramp, avoid chafing and have intimate knowledge of every footpath in your area. The list is endless! You could probably sit in the big black Mastermind chair with ‘marathon running’ as your chosen specialised subject. What you probably haven’t considered though is how you might feel afterwards.

There’s the obvious elation, the glory and the unquestionable satisfaction of completing 26.2 miles. This is something that only one per cent of the population ever achieve. Running a marathon is powerful, it can change the direction of your life as you realise what dizzy heights you can climb to. If you can run a marathon you can do anything is not an unrealistic claim.

Remember back to school exams, A levels, GCSE’s. Lots of revision and longing for them to be over and then BOOM, nothing, an anti-climax. Unfortunately, the same can be said for marathons. The post-marathon blues don’t affect everybody but they can catch you out. Just being aware that this is a possibility can make all the difference.

If you find yourself feeling down, empty or just a bit lost a few weeks after your marathon glory, don’t panic. Don’t pile pressure onto yourself, you’ve done enough of this over the preceding 16 weeks. There is a way out of this.

If you haven’t run your marathon yet, then this is a great time to think about and plan what steps you can take to avoid the post-marathon blues.

Take a few moments now to plan what you can do if the post-marathon blues strike you.

Here are some suggestions:

  • accept it’s normal to feel a bit low so don’t overreact
  • plan some treats for yourself with friends who make you laugh
  • book your next race so you have another target
  • join a running club if you haven’t already
  • encourage and help a non-runner to start; do a couch to 5k plan with them
  • try an entirely different distance or type of running
  • don’t run for a while and take up a new sport entirely and return to running as and when you want to
  • seek support from other runners who’ve experienced the same.

The post-marathon blues don’t affect everyone. They WILL pass and this WON’T be your lasting memory of your achievement. It is however certainly worth just keeping an eye out for them and taking some swift action to nip it all in the bud.
Share your post-marathon stories below and if you haven’t run your marathon yet then GOOD LUCK!!

For hundreds more tips and loads of advice on running and health, buy my book, Run Well: Essential health questions and answers for runners. Available everywhere you buy books!

Featured Image: Totoo G at Pixabay

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