Running Through It: Marathon Recovery Plan

A Post Marathon recovery plan can be tricky, how do you get started on your next training plan? How do you make sure you are fully recovered?

As with all things the perfect plan is very individualized, some runners need more time off and need their recovery to be monitored to make sure they are completely recovered going into the next training cycle while other runners need to be coerced into taking time off because they feel fresh after a couple of days.

It is important to consider mental recovery in this case though, as my college coach used to tell us,

“You either take a break voluntarily or your body will decide for you”.

You may not feel exhausted… but the toll of all of those long runs and hard efforts will take its toll eventually. It can be very tempting (especially after a pr race) to just fire through from one marathon to the next and you might even get away with it for a little while.

However, eventually, this will catch up with you, whether it is mentally feeling burnt out or an overuse injury, our body needs rest eventually. You should know by now that I’ve learned all of these lessons the hard way, in high school I would always take a “break” between cross country and track because I played basketball in the winter and when I didn’t play basketball I was coming back from injuries.

In college, however, it was a different story and you could say I was pretty antsy to keep pushing my mileage and get to the point where I was competitive. I had come off of a cross country season where I would beat my high school 5k pr in the midst of my 8k races but I was consistently not competitive in any way. This made me want to keep pushing after cross country because I was in no way ready for collegiate competition… so what did this lead to?

I ended up with a tibial stress fracture about a month into training for indoor — causing me to redshirt the rest of my freshman year.

My college coach had a saying, “You either take a break now to recharge or your body will force you to take a break down the line” — I’ve seen runners at all levels think they are too fit to take a break but when you are in shape you are constantly “running the edge” between being at top fitness and encountering an overuse injury.

Up until now, I’ve neglected the mental aspect of why you might want to take a mandated break a couple of times a year. Everyone responds differently to training — that’s nothing new — and the myriad of miles you cover and the number of times you will test and extend yourself during marathon training will wear on your psyche.

There is always a certain point in training where you’re tired of running 18 milers and you start counting down the days until the grind is over. I see this in track and cross country runners as well, there are only so many mile repeats you can run… only so many times you can hit the 200-meter mark in 36 seconds before you start to question your sanity. Overtraining sucks and if you bounce from one tough training cycle to the next without backing off, you will reach your breaking point sooner rather than later. So what do you do?

As always it’s highly individualized, just like all of my training plans, but I usually have two outlines depending on the person, how their training cycle went, and ultimately what has happened to them in their training past.

Post-Marathon Recovery Plan
So You’ve run the Marathon… what’s next?

Recovery Option A

This is simple 2 weeks rest, no running whatsoever! The first week is complete rest, no thinking about running just trying to reflect and relax and recover, while the 2nd week will be active recovery. Active recovery being every other day try to do something that isn’t running but will still get you moving (i.e. cycling, swimming, walking, things like that).

The caveat being that I will have people do a 10–20 minute shakeout run the day after the race followed by a recovery yoga session. I find this helps with recovery because the day after won’t be the worst in terms of soreness (it’ll be rough but not the worst) and a short run + restorative yoga can help with overall soreness.

Recovery Option B

1 week off completely, I’m a firm believer in that first week being completely off with the same post-race caveat as in option A.

The 2nd week will be running every other day — starting at 20 minutes and working up to 30–40 minutes before we get back into our actual training plan.

As always things are discretionary and there is are no correct answers but these are good guidelines for your post-race plans.

What do you think about these guidelines? Check out the full discussion from this week’s coaches corner (25 minute mark) from the ‘Running Through It’ podcast embedded below.


You can also join the discussion on Twitter (@hornekerjustin) and Instagram using #runwithjustin

In the meantime.

Happy Running,


Leave a Reply