The Stages of Marathon Recovery (a.k.a. What the Heck to Expect When It’s Over)

Ever since I ran my first marathon about 10 days ago, I’ve been on a post-marathon high. I’m probably one of those cliché, annoying runners, who talks about it every chance she gets. But, hey—I ran a freakin’ marathon! I worked hard for months, I’m super proud of myself for getting there… People get to talk about their kids or pets all the time, so I am going to talk about my running. 🙂


Luckily, you’re all here voluntarily.

I have to say, recovering from the marathon didn’t take as long as I thought it would. People keep trying to tell me that’s because I’m only 26. Ha

But for me, I went through what I shall call the 4 Stages of Marathon Recovery…

Stage 1: The Day of the Marathon (a.k.a. PAIN)
I shuffled around; groaned a lot; and had trouble lifting my legs, er, at all. I popped Advil like it was my job. Stairs were a joke. Sitting = heavenly. My right knee felt like a 90-year-old’s. I probably looked like a 90-year-old. Passersby and strangers stared a bit—I just made sure my medal was blingin’.

Why yes, I feel like I'm about to fall over and I'm caked in salt. Please take my picture.

Why yes, I feel like I’m about to fall over and I’m caked in salt. Please take my picture.

Stage 2: The Day after the Marathon (a.k.a. Why is that sore now? )
Walking was halfway back to normal. My knee felt akin to a 70-year-old’s knee—quite painful going up and down the stairs. Working from home, sitting on the couch with my legs propped up, was the best ever. But, every time I stood up, the soreness came flooding back like a tidal wave. Ooph. With slightly less leg achiness came newly sore body parts—my back, my shoulders, my lower abs, my arms. What a lovely surprise! I wanted to go to bed by 7pm.

Stage 3: Two Days after the Marathon (a.k.a. Advil = Life)
Popping all that Advil over the last few days must have helped. Walking around felt pretty normal. But, after sitting at my desk for an hour or more, getting up and stretching my legs felt like straightening out tightly-wound Slinkies. My knee was progressing to a 60-year-old’s doesn’t-yet-need-to-be-replaced knee. My appetite was voracious. My fatigue was returning to normal, and I stayed awake until almost 9pm. Woo.

Stage 4: Three Days after the Marathon (a.k.a. Did I really do that?)
The return to normalcy! Walking, sitting, standing, even squatting to pee = normal. Joy. Only the outside of my hips still felt a bit sore, and that was only if I jiggled them around weird to see if they still hurt. Ha. The pain had worn down, the euphoria was still in full-swing, but with passing time the marathon began to seem like a dream.* My appetite wasn’t slowing down. A giant bakery cupcake may or may not have made a minor appearance at dinner before disappearing into my bottomless pit of a stomach.

And now I suppose I’ve entered stage 5…

Stage 5: Ten Days after the Marathon (a.k.a. What’s Next?)
I’ve enjoyed taking the last 10 days off from running. I’ve been relaxing, getting a lot of ignored housework done, and just spending time with friends and family. It’s nice not rushing to leave work to go run before it gets dark; or just simply come home after work to make dinner and relax the rest of the night with my fiancé. But, the itch is creeping back up…The urge to run and see how these legs feel again…To get out in the crisp air, eating it up by the lungful as my feet kiss the road and leave it behind me. Soon, I will get back out there.

But not today. Today, I’m enjoying the triumph for just a while longer.

*Yes, the marathon seems like a dream, not a nightmare. Like I said, we runners are a rare, special breed…  

How do you feel mentally and physically after you reach a big goal or race? How long do you take “off” afterwards, to recharge yourself?

My running buddy Liz finished the Chicago Marathon, but it didn’t quite go as planned; then she went on to run a half marathon last weekend with a PR for the year. Wow! I guess we all recover differently, huh?


2 thoughts on “The Stages of Marathon Recovery (a.k.a. What the Heck to Expect When It’s Over)

  1. Yes, definitely enjoy that triumph. I can tell you when you do subsequent marathons, the aches and pains will not be as bad. The body has a pretty awesome way of adapting. : )

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