I spent a semester abroad in Germany during my junior year of college. It was one of the best experiences of my life, after marrying my love and us moving to the Seattle area. I traveled almost weekly and visited everywhere from Dublin to Budapest to Rome. The hardest part was not homesickness, but it was the post study abroad blues.
The semester break was wonderful. But once I returned to my university in Indiana, I started to experience a bit of the blues. Not depression, but a deep sense of missing something important. I felt bored, as I was not challenging myself in trying to learn how to communicate in German or how to navigate the streets of Paris. I felt claustrophobic, stuck in one small section of a small town without the privilege of a quick Eurorail trip to somewhere new. It was hard to convey my experience of solo travel through Luxembourg or pilgrimaging to Rome to others. Most of all, I felt a significant sense of letdown, an odd sensation of restlessness after the end of a significant life experience.
You can experience the same sensation after a marathon or other big race. Much like my five months filled with foreign travels, a marathon is a several month long endeavor that continually pushes you outside your comfort zone. You have the regimented training schedule, the feeling of accomplishment from a long run or hard workout, and your eyes set on a goal ahead.
Once the race is over, you might struggle to convey the significance of what you achieved to your non-runner friends and family. You will might miss the lack of a regimented daily schedule or you feel directionless without a goal to work for. Whether or not you achieve your goal, the race itself can feel anti-climatic after months of preparation. The lack of daily accomplishments leaves you feeling flat. Once the elation of crossing the finish line wears off, you might find yourself experiencing the post marathon blues.
You do not want to jump back into marathon training or run another race. Your mind and body need time to rest and recover, and constantly running from the post marathon blues will not actually alleviate them.The post race blues are not reserved to marathons only – they can occur after shorter races, after achieving a big goal, or at the end of a season. Instead, try some of these suggestions for dealing with post race blues while also allowing yourself to recover fully from your race.
Six Ways to Cope with Post Marathon Blues
1. Try something new
Novelty contributes to the excitement of marathon training: new workouts, new paces, new distances, and new challenges. When the race ends and suddenly your routine consists of 3-5 mile easy runs, you lose the sense of novelty.
Find new ways to add novelty into your post-marathon fitness routine. Try that exercise class at your gym or a Pilates studio, explore a new running route, or connect with a new running buddy. After my last marathon, I took snowboarding lessons with my husband. Having a new sport to learn engaged my mind and body and prevented post marathon blues emerging from my routine of easy runs.
2. Let yourself indulge.
Yes, food is fuel and the key to health, but it is is also fun and pleasurable. I am not promoting emotional eating or binging, but rather that enjoying good food and the company that comes with it can benefit your mood. Go out for drinks with friends, enjoy a nice dinner with your significant other, or indulge in your favorite dessert.
An act of charity toward another never fails to lift one’s spirits. Volunteer with Girls on the Run, work at an aid station during a local race, spectate, or find another meaningful way to engage with your community (the running community or greater community) in the weeks after your race. Helping others gives you a sense of meaning and watching other runners achieve their goals can shift your focus beyond yourself and your most recent race.
4. Enjoy another hobby.
Once the race is finished, the hours you devoted to a long run on Saturday morning are suddenly free. Without an activity to fill these hours, the post marathon blues can worsen. Fill the newly free time with other hobbies. Did a pile of books pile up on your shelf during marathon training, or you didn’t have the time or energy to hike as much as you wanted? Do that now instead of your long run!
5. Plan a post-race trip.
Last year, part of me expected to experience some post marathon blues after months of training hard for CIM. One thing that helped me was having a fun vacation planned after the race. Ryan and I spent a day in Yosemite and the excitement of the trip kept me in a good mood after the race.
A vacation gives you something to look forward to beyond the race. Whether or not you do well in the race (both a PR and a missed goal can lead to post marathon blues), you can enjoy travel and some leisure time.
Granted, the post vacation blues compounded with the post marathon blue can leave you in an even worse emotional state, so know how you respond to vacation.
6. Don’t hold in how you feel.
Suppressing the post marathon blues will not alleviate them – if anything, you will feel more disconnected from others. Chances are, many of your running friends can relate from experience. Social media certainly has its problems, but the wide community that you can reach through Instagram or Facebook can support you during the post marathon blues.