The Post Marathon Funk: What to Expect and How to Deal

Grandmas Finish post marathon

My latest marathon is this weekend (yikes!). Even after completing more than 20 marathons, I still get nervous in the week leading up to race day. Even when I do everything right during training, I know that anything can happen on race day.

But there is one thing I know will happen after every marathon: a day or two after the race, I will be hit by a post-marathon funk. And not a good, George Clinton kind of funk, but a not-quite-depressed, but not-quite-sure-what-to-do-with-myself kind of funk.

The pattern is nearly always the same:

  • The afternoon of the marathon: I’m exhausted and feel totally out of sorts.
  • The day after the marathon: I’m sore but happy and basking in my success.
  • The few days after the marathon I will continue to bask as I run into friends and co-workers and I get to oh-so-subtly drop into conversation, at my marathon last weekend

And then, bam. I’m in the funk.

Call it the blues, a let-down, a funk, the event hangover, the result is the same. I feel a little down, unfocused, and I’m not sure what to do with myself.

How to Deal With a Post Marathon Funk

Know it is common and normal

After so much time and energy focused on a single goal, it is very common amongst runners to feel lost when it’s all over. It’s just like the first days home after a long-planned vacation or the Christmas holidays. You have adapted to life with a single focus. You’ve adjusted your calendar and directed all of your mental and psychic energy to a single goal.

When it’s all done, that focus and energy has nowhere to go.

Nearly every marathoner I have ever talked to has experienced this phenomenon to some extent.

So if nothing else, know it’s not just you.

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Stay active

While it is important to stay active and not turn into a complete slug after your marathon, this may or may not involve running.

The first two or so weeks post marathon should be a time for recovery. If you keep running, keep it chill. No crazy track workouts or tough speed work. Keep it to comfortably paced runs.

Personally, I’m not great about running regularly if I’m not training for something, so I’ll often register for a shorter run (usually a 10k or half-marathon) that I’ll run just for fun a month or two after the marathon. That way I have some incentive to keep moving, but it won’t kill my body or require as much of a time commitment.

Another approach is to keep active, but avoid running for a bit. I do this every so often when I have zero interest in putting on running shoes for a few weeks post marathon.

Switch to biking or hiking. Maybe check out the local pool and swim some laps. Try tennis. A mental break from running could be just what the doctor ordered.

Refocus your energy

You found the time and the energy to fit in 20 mile runs every weekend. You now don’t have those long runs blocking up your calendar. Be productive with your newly re-discovered free time.

Catch up with friends. During marathon training, you have likely declined many dinner, drinks, movie, and coffee invites. Make up for it now. You can even go out on a Friday night without worrying about if it will impact your long run!

Find a new hobby. You suddenly have your Saturday mornings back. Use them to try something new. Learn photography. Take up basket-weaving. Join the church choir.

Start that long-delayed project. You found time to train for a marathon, so you know now (in case you ever doubted it) that you can make the time to achieve a goal if you really want it. Is there some other long-delayed project that you want to do but never feel like you have the time to accomplish? Start a blog. Learn to code. Start that side-business.

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Wait a few weeks before making any big choice about your running future

Maybe you had an amazing marathon and you are immediately ready to sign up for the next one. Or maybe your race was less than stellar and you are ready to hang up your running shoes and never run again.

Don’t do either in the week or so after the event, while you are still in the post-marathon hangover period.

Recover. Chill. Regroup. Make sure any decisions about your future in running are sane and logical.

Or at least as logical as paying good money to run 26 miles can ever be.

What about you? Have you ever faced the post-marathon funk? What did you do to get past it?

Post Marathon funk pin


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