Running the Race

Post-race blues are common among runners, but there are steps you can take to help avoid these lows

If you’ve been running long enough you have probably experienced it before.  We plan for months, train long and hard for our goal event, often running a few other races along the way.  The big race has come and gone, but now what?  Whether or not our race was the success we wanted and planned for, it’s over and we are left to sort out our post-race feelings.

These feelings include feeling sluggish, unmotivated, bloated, tired, and sometimes even depressed.  Whatever the outcome of your event, we can all go through these post-race lows.  So how do we recover from them? Does the runners’ high that people talk about always follow with a runners low?

After long ultra races there is usually a recovery period for most runners.  Some literally take several weeks or even months off from most running to allow their body time to recover, and to catch up on personal things that have gone neglected during the long months of training.  Post-race blues can quickly creep up on someone during this time of recovery, so it’s good to take steps to avoid these lows. I’ve found a few things that help during this time.

End of a Chapter

Write a race report: ultra runners like to write and share race reports, usually within a few days or weeks following a race.  They share details about the course, how their race went, what they did right or wrong, and summarize their race experience.   Others might just write out a list of things that went right or wrong as they make notes on how they can improve in their next event.  These reports can be shared on the internet, then read by other runners.  The positive feedback received when sharing these reports can provide encouragement and support, as well as prolong that feeling of accomplishment.  The process of writing a report will also help you to close the chapter on one race and allow you to move on to the next adventure.

Do other outdoor activities: enjoying other activities that keep us moving but allow our bodies to recover is another great idea.  Doing so with friends and family members makes it more enjoyable after months of having little time with them.  Cross training activities like biking, hiking, kayaking, or exploring trails and new places are great alternatives to running during your recovery.  You can also try slower running or walking that allows you to look around and see things you might normally miss while training.

New Adventures

Set another goal: ultra runners love to immediately sign up for the next race once they have completed their goal race.  Many will go to UltraSignUp.com within the first 24 hours of finishing a race to find the next exciting challenge, even as they try to stay off their feet and regain their strength.  It seems crazy that when our body is still feeling the pain it has just endured, our mind can quickly push that aside in search of the next adventure and goal.  When our eyes focus on the next race, it helps us plan a smart recovery, make our next training schedule, and keep the lows from settling in.

Volunteer: find some race volunteer opportunities.  Race directors are often looking for volunteers and helpers for events.  By volunteering, we find meaningful reward in helping others and giving back to the racing community that we enjoy.  We can help other runners by crewing and pacing for them, or satisfaction in seeing others reach their goals.

It’s important to remember we all get them to some degree, recognize them for what they are, they might appear for a while but will eventually go away as time moves on and we refocus.

Published December 2016

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