How to Cope with Post Marathon Blues

How to Deal with the Post Marathon Blues

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.

How to Deal with the Post Marathon Blues

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.

3. Volunteer.

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.

How to Deal with the Post Marathon Blues

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.

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22 Responses

  1. It’s so easy to get the blues after a big race. How can it not after spending months prepping for it? You offer great tips. I always looked to enjoying things that I didn’t do as often during training like sleeping a little longer in the mornings or tackling strength training more vigorously.

  2. I feel like many of my marathons had good timing- before a trip or something exciting. The best was running Houston on our way to Hawaii for our honeymoon. Spending 2 weeks there was the perfect way to recover from the marathon!

  3. It truly is the post honeymoon blues–you all of the sudden are like an untethered… something that is floating and dealing with adrenaline let down.
    Makes me want to go run another!

  4. These are good tips. I don’t run marathons but every post-race recovery from a half is different. Some go easier than others. One I actually felt kind of depressed the week after (I met my goals… I guess I was coming down from the endorphin high of it?). Sometimes it’s just tough NOT to have a goal for a while if you’re the type of person who always does. For me, I like doing yoga because it helps clear my mind and helps with recovery, plus it gives me a way to move and compliments running very well.

    1. I feel like meeting goals can set up the blues… sort of like, okay now what next? When you miss a goal, then you automatically still have a goal to work on – recover and get ready to train for that goal again.

  5. I didn’t get much post race blues after my last marathon. I was just so sick of training and ready for it all to be over. I’m feeling similarly this time – 7 weeks to go and already craving post race freedom. I think I’ll miss the Chi Marathon experience but little else. Maybe I just don’t enjoy race training as much as I used to.

    1. Personality seems to have a lot to do with the post race blues vs excitement – some people thrive on routine, while others don’t. Everyone responds differently to big events! It’s like how some people get post vacation blues and others are excited to return to normal life.

  6. Ahhhh this was so well-written. Man, you’re good. So, because I don’t run to race and in fact don’t like racing very much, I am just fine in the aftermath of a race and feel quite happy to settle back into my monotonous routine! I’m not the norm, though. I know.

    1. Thank you! Everyone is different and post race blues aren’t necessarily the “norm” – Hanna above in the comments said the same thing! The monotonous routine of daily miles can be quite nice.

  7. This is great advice. After completing my first marathon last year, I did have the blues for a few weeks. It was weird to have nothing to look forward to. But I think it’s important, like you said, to embrace the feelings and look for new ways to challenge yourself!

    1. New ways to challenge oneself are good – I really believe to improve as a runner, it’s good to try different challenges and things. And it’s fun to have time for other hobbies after a race as well!

  8. The post-race blues are real and they are more difficult than running the race! I’ve had them especially after a disappointing race–one that I trained so hard for and didn’t perform as well as I could have. I’ve made the decision to always have fun and celebrate the race as my reward for all my hard work. Yes, I have goals, but I never want to feel bad after all that hard work! It’s been a good strategy for me–I’ve really enjoyed all my races and haven’t felt that let-down as much.

    1. That is a really intelligent strategy – I like it! I think focusing on enjoying the race helps avoid the letdown, like you said. Focusing too much on time goals can lead to letdown – whether you achieve them or miss them.

  9. I had no idea you spent a semester in Germany, which city? (Don’t know if you knew, but I am from Germany ;)).

    I spent a semester in the US (before moving here) and I definitely know how that post-exchange time felt…. it’s a good comparison to the marathon blues (or half-marathon blues for me), because for a period of time you were so wrapped into training and the race (or the time abroad) and then you go from “60mph to zero”. It’s an odd feeling.

  10. Hey, When you miss a goal, then you automatically still have a goal to work on – recover and get ready to train for that goal again.

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