Phase 1: Minutes after the race. The first phase of recovery starts when you cross the finish line. Drink something with electrolytes to replace what you lost, and eat something within the hour. Walk around for a bit – fight the urge to sit down.
Phase 2: The few days after the race. No running. Your muscles will be sore for a few days, possibly worse the second day than the first. Don’t try to “run out” the soreness. This could prolong your recovery.
Phase 3: One week after the race. You can start back running briefly and easily – no hard or long runs. The soreness may be gone, but you are still a ways from recovery. You may still feel tired, and your legs may still feel heavy. Just go with it – these are normal feelings.
Phase 4: 1-3 weeks after the race. You can begin running, but the frequency should be less often than regular training, the pace should be slower, and you should still refrain from long runs. You can cross train in between runs, but nothing too strenuous. Gradually, you will return to your pre-marathon training schedule.
Phase 5: 4 weeks after the race. Barring any lingering pain or signs of injury, you should be mostly recovered by this point. You can reintroduce some speed work and long runs. However, don’t try to introduce both elements in the same week.
Phase 6: Mental recovery. This phase, often called “postmarathon blues,” may occur anywhere from a few days after the race and last for weeks or months afterwards. Your legs may be ready to run, but your mind is not. This is not cause for worry – this phase is temporary. One way to beat the blues is to refocus on a new target – choosing another race is a great way to become reenergized.