The marathon is over and here’s how you can expect to feel. This is the cycle of emotion that I feel when a marathon is over.
Nauseous. After 26.2 miles (42K) of joggling, you feel pretty sick at the finish line. You just want to grab a drink and collapse. The length of time this lasts varies from 10 minutes to 6 hours, but it always happens. Don’t worry, it’ll pass. So might the contents of your stomach but you’ll get better.
Tired. No kidding! In 20 marathons, I’ve felt tired afterwards in every one except 1. It’s not directly related with speed either because I usually feel much more tired after a slower marathon than a faster one. I marvel at the people that do a marathon in 5 and 6 hours. It’s gotta be tough just to stand up for that long. The tired phase lasts all day but can be satisfied with a quick nap a few hours after the marathon. But first walk around a bit. If you lay down and sleep right away, your legs will be super sore the next day.
Sore. The next phase is soreness. Admittedly, you go thu many of these things simultaneously. For me the soreness is in my leg and ankle muscles. Walking hurts a little and usually continues to hurt for 2 days after. By the third day however, I’ll be out joggling again. Not fast, but just enough to remind my legs that I’m in control of my body, not them. You will also feel soreness in your neck, shoulders, arm joints (from juggling), and back. Marathon running is great because it makes you appreciate how good it feels to not hurt.
Elated. Months of training are over and you completed the task. Forget your time (if it wasn’t a PR) and just bask in the moment of being done with the whole thing. You did something that few people in the world would even consider doing. You saw the 26.2 miles and the juggling bean bags, you took up the challenge and you beat ’em. You heard all the cheers and support from the crowd and it was great. How often in your life do you have people cheering for you? Even after 20 marathons, this elation still happens at various points on the course. Unfortunately, it goes away after a couple hours too.
Thankful. Yes, you’ll be happy you did it but you’ll also be thankful that you could. There are some people who will never be able to do what you’ve done. Consider yourself lucky. Hold on to this feeling as long as you can because the negative feelings are going to kick in any minute.
Disappointed. Alright, positive feelings aside, you didn’t break that world record joggling a marathon. Hell, you weren’t even close. You didn’t even set a PR. You bust your ass training as hard as you can and for what? You could’ve finished with a lot less work. You could’ve been drinking beer and soda and sleeping in on the weekends. Why are you so slow? Why didn’t you try harder?
Yes, these questions all impinged my thoughts and it happens every race no matter how good I run. I always think I could’ve done better. But as my old high school english teach Sonia Kallick says, “People are always doing the very best they can at any given moment.” If you’re like me, you’ll be disappointed. But it’ll pass too. Life goes on. There are new goals to set. New challenges to try (and maybe fail). Remember the failures make the victories much more sweet.
Insecure. Once you work thru the disappointment a small amount of insecurity will seep in. Especially when you see that your “competition” significantly out-classes you. How am I possibly going to shave off over 30 minutes on my marathon time?! Anyone got any tips? I put in the miles, I lose weight, I increase my VO and still I can’t qualify for Boston. Why aren’t I good enough? What am I doing wrong?
Nothing. There may be some training things I could do different but it could also be true that I am who I am, a 3:20 to 3:30 marathoner. We live in this world where everyone says “you can be anyone or do anything you want to do if you work hard enough.” That is a bunch of bull. There are some things that you can’t do. No matter how hard you work, train, or practice, you may NEVER be as good as you wished you could be. Accept it. Then find something else you can be good at. Really, it’s ok. I’m not quite ready to give up my dream of breaking the world marathon joggling record but my resolve is chipping away. Perhaps there is something I could be doing different.
Hopeful. And then you start to feel hopeful. You start thinking about the next marathon. You even kind of miss the training. You miss the schedule, the soreness, the sacrafices. You miss having this thing your working toward. And that longing turns to hope. The next marathon you’ll be better. You’ll run harder. You’ll have fewer drops. You’ll set a PR and be poised to break that world joggling record.
Determined. Now you are resolved to do better. You’ll re-work your training and improve. 37 is not too old! Hell, Ed Whitlock ran 3:08 and he is in his seventies. If Ed can do it, if Michal can do it, dammit, so can you.
But take a week off. Running hard too soon after a marathon will lead to nothing but injury unless you train specifically to do that. This would be an excellent time to learn that Mills Mess thing that all the kids are raving about these days.