On The Run

Five Ways To Deal With Post-Race Blues

Training for a big race can be all-consuming. For months, everything is centred around it – the structure of your days, your nutrition, your sleeping schedule, your weekend activities, and yes, even your conversations. As you approach the race, you visualise all that will follow – the finish line, the photos on social media, the tell-all blog, the celebratory meal, reliving the joys and struggles with friends, colleagues and anyone willing to listen, and of course those lie-ins and lazy weekends. But what you don’t always hear runners talk about are some of the tough weeks that can follow. When normal life resumes, some runners find themselves feeling lost, bored, purposeless, and even sad. It’s a low feeling that’s in complete contrast to the high you expected to experience for months. So common is this feeling, that it’s been coined the “post-race blues”. I experienced this after running my first half marathon and more recently after my ultra-trail marathon. In today’s blog, I’m sharing some strategies that help me through this weird period.

How To Navigate Those Post-Race Blues

1/ Pause and Indulge. It’s easy to immediately start looking for the next big challenge, and people (all well-meaning of course) will be quick to ask “What’s next?” Signing up for another big race was my go-to strategy in the past. As soon as one was done, I’d be onto the next big one. But what I’ve found over the years is that sometimes we don’t take enough time to just be after a big event. So even though I think you should certainly look for another challenge, don’t let that be the first thing you do! First, pause and take some time to treat yourself. After my ultra, I indulged in my favourite things – number one, the scrumptious gluten free cake from Woollies Café! But extend this period of indulgence to more than a post-marathon meal or treat. Enjoy a few extra lie-ins, get that massage or your nails done, and yes, have more of that cake…!

2/ Socialise With Friends. Training takes a lot of time… that, while managing all other aspects of your life, often means socialising with friends takes a back seat. But after you’re done with your race, call up a few friends – go for a long brunch, a coffee date or a glamourous night out. And just like they say don’t talk about your kids on date night, don’t talk about your race! Catch up on work, kids, family and life in general. Remember, you’re more than just a runner!

3/ Get Out Of Town. As my race was far from home (13 hours drive), we took a few days off to enjoy the Eastern Cape. At that point, I was still riding the high of completing my first ultra. But three weeks later (mid-blues!) we decided to celebrate my daughter’s tenth birthday with a camping adventure in the Kgalagadi Desert. I’m not much of a camper but it was such an incredible experience being out there – the bright sand, the thorny acacia trees, the beautiful sky and the absolute peace and quiet. When we returned, I had a renewed sense of energy and excitement and for the first time started thinking about my next running challenge.

4/ Diversify Your Workouts. Some people are good at incorporating different activities in their fitness regimen. I’m not and I know I’m not alone. So during this period, try something new or go back to activities you neglected because of all the running. Following my ultra, I’ve found my love for pilates again. I also started some strength routines and I’ve had more time for leisurely hikes and walks with the kids, without the pressure of ticking it off a schedule. Doing these different activities has revealed a very weak core and poor upper body strength and has been a great reminder of the importance of doing more than just running.

5/ Run Some Place New. When I started running again, I didn’t commit to a training plan immediately, instead I focused on having fun, short runs and exploring new places. In fact, it was on our return from the desert that I hopped out and ran in a village I’d never heard of – Khudumelapye. Once back home, I started feeling that fire in my belly again. I felt ready.

Post-race blues are normal. If this is something you experience, first of all, know that you’re not alone. You put so much time, energy and effort into your training, and often with many sacrifices. So it’s okay to feel lost, sad and demotivated when it’s all over. But it’s also important to find ways to pick yourself up again as this feeling, if too prolonged, can make it really difficult to get back again. Hopefully, some of these strategies will help you navigate this weird time and bring back that excitement of tackling a new challenge in your running journey.

Have you experienced post-race blues? What were some of the strategies you used to get through this period?

I’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also joining the Runner’s Roundup with Mile By MileCoach Debbie RunsConfessions of a Mother RunnerRuns with Pugs, and Laura Norris Running! Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.

21 thoughts on “Five Ways To Deal With Post-Race Blues

  1. Pause and indulge is my favourite, haha!
    I had tons of cake and a massage and both were wonderful. I’ll need to try that gluten-free Woollies cake!
    One thing I like to do is to plan for the next running event to look forward to. It needs to be distant enough not to be overwhelming and close enough to be tangible.
    I think you have done that with the Spar-Race Series, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I usually go for the chocolate one but couldn’t find it! We don’t have a Woollies Cafe here so it’s always a treat!

      The Spar Series is more for fun so I don’t see it as a huge event 🙂 What I meant is I don’t like planning for a big goal race too soon! But your method is spot on too – making sure it’s distant so it’s not overwhelming!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve definitely been there before. It’s a weird feeling isn’t it? I think I do like to rest and indulge after a big goal like that. Usually I try new things or “catch up” on what I hadn’t been able to do during training. That gets me into a routine and then I’m back to a workout schedule until I find the next thing to train for!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These are great tips, especially the one about diversifying your workouts. After my marathons, the last thing I wanted to do was run, so I would always enjoy longer walks, especially power walks, and more strength training.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Myself, I don’t necessarily feel blue, but I do feel a bit out-of-sorts at all the “free” time at my disposal after a big race. Thankfully, I have a nice arsenal of non-running fitness options I can tap into when recovering (or taking a scaled-back sabbatical), so I’m usually alright. It’s a very personal experience, though. I can really see how some may feel distraught at the “what’s next” dilemma.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great ideas.
    You train for so long and then poof, it’s over.
    Blogging about your experience is important! You relive it
    Sign up for another big one… what’s next?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. These are all great tips! I love Pilates too, but it’s hard to “do all the things”.

    I think rushing from one challenge to the next — and I’ve certainly done that! — means we just don’t take all the time bask in our achievements. Or learn from the things that didn’t go right.

    I especially like your idea of going someplace, but sometimes it’s difficult to get a certain someone to agree to that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have definitely felt sad after big races or events I have trained for. all of the sudden I find myself with more time and less of a purpose. great ideas!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It can definitely be tough when a big race is over! These are great ideas. I like to enjoy a little more wine and sleep more before I get back to training again.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I don’t think I’ve experienced “the blues” but I’ve felt like “OK, now what?” Or is that the same thing? 🙂 I was so used to the routine that it left me wondering what to do with the extra time. That’s when reading books and watching TV comes into place.

    Liked by 1 person

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