It’s easy to go from elation at the finish line to feeling flat days later.
Brian asks: I finished my marathon two weeks ago. I was elated when I crossed the finish line, but now I just feel flat and kind of sad, almost like I’m depressed. Is this normal?
First, completing a marathon is an accomplishment that most people will never experience, so be sure to appreciate your achievement. Secondly, take comfort knowing you are not alone. Many runners find themselves at a complete loss when the marathon is over – welcome to the “post-marathon blues”.
Post-marathon blues or depression may not be a clinical diagnosis, but it’s real. To put it into context, when you accomplish any goal that you’ve been targeting for months, it’s only normal that a letdown of some sort is inevitable when it’s over. The past five or six months of your life have been dedicated to achieving this goal, and marathon training has, in large part, dictated your lifestyle.
Nutrition, sleep patterns and even socialising has revolved around training. Basically, you’ve been living, breathing and eating marathon training for months, so now that it’s over, is it really any wonder you feel lost?
But there are positives to this. You now have the freedom to sleep in, eat, drink and socialise as you please. No more long runs and no more early wake up calls, which can be both a relief and terrifying all at the same time.
So now what? Do you have to run marathons for the rest of your life to find a purpose again? The answer is no, although some runners do reach for other goals – this is why there are a myriad of other running events like running a marathon in every state, or running on all seven continents, or trying an ultra race on for size.
One strategy runners often use to avoid or minimise post-race depression is to register for another race. By registering for another race, or multiple races even before completing your main goal race, it keeps something always on the horizon. If you choose this strategy, just be sure not to compromise your recovery time between events to help you avoid poor performances, burn out or injury.
I think the real key to avoiding the post-marathon blues is to find a way to incorporate what you learned from marathon training into your daily life. Try applying the structure, organisation, focus and goal setting to every day tasks. If you can do this, you’ll find that life and running can be just as exciting and fulfilling whether marathon training or not.