Marathon recovery: 10 tips to recovering like a pro

Recovery is a subject that doesn’t get as much attention as the training and racing, but it’s an important one.

After Edinburgh 2016, I’d booked a holiday to Mallorca for two weeks, where I like to think I nailed the recovery part of that marathon cycle. So below are 10 tips for recovering like a pro.

1 Everyone is different
Listen to your own body and act accordingly. Just because your mate or someone you follow on Instagram is out doing 10 miles two days after the race, doesn’t mean you should be.

2 Less is more
The more rested you are now, the better you’ll be the next training cycle. So err on the side of caution. PBs aren’t built the week after a race, only injuries.

3 Just because you feel ok, doesn’t mean you are
Overtraining creeps up on you. It’s not the slap in your face of tearing a muscle, it’s something that you won’t even realise you’ve got until you’re too fatigued to get off the sofa and plagued by niggles. Take it easy.

4 Take a break
Recovery run, pah. Call it what you want, it’s still running. I took 1 week off from running completely before doing a slow jog round Palma because it was a gorgeous day and I wanted to run in a gorgeous city.


5 Plan your recovery
We take a lot of time agonising over planning our training, tweaking it, printing it out and putting it up on the fridge. But we pretty much wing our recovery. The usual advice is 1 day of recovery for each mile raced – so 26 days for a marathon, 13 for a half. This doesn’t need to mean no running, but it should mean no other races and no hard training.

6 Ease back in
There’s no rush. Think of the first few weeks of returning to running as a reverse taper, you build up gradually. I’ve run a handful of times since Edinburgh starting out at 5k for a couple of weeks before upping the distance. Last week I ran 10 miles total.

7 Leave your watch at home, slow down
I went for a run on holiday without a watch and when we stopped I reached for my wrist to press stop. It’s a scary sign of how ingrained this has become. Forget about logging miles and slow down to an easy pace. This means running slower than marathon pace (the actual pace not what you were aiming for but didn’t manage). Ideally 1 min per mile slower for true easy running.


8 Do the other things that you missed out on while training
Swimming, cycling, walking, yoga – get your body moving again, there’s no need to sit on the couch for a month. And it’s likely you’ve missed doing a few other activities while running took over. But avoid doing any high intensity stuff.

9 The mental break is important too

Mostly we focus on our legs recovering from the trauma of running 26.2 miles really fast. But our minds too need a rest from constantly thinking about running and miles and splits and paces and obsessing over how we’re going to fit in five runs this week when we’ve got to work late and feed the cat and OMG MAKE IT STOP. Don’t jump back into all of that too soon. Remember when you were in the middle of training and you wanted it all to be over because it threatened to overwhelm you? Well, now is that time.

10 Catch up on life
There are other things in life other than running. See your friends, hang out with family, go on holiday, stay out late. Your running will benefit from it when you come back to it with renewed enthusiasm, I promise.

Need help with your training? I can help.