Running a marathon doesn't have to hurt, if you follow our pre-and-post race recovery plan

You guys, the time is finally here! If you're running the Houston marathon this weekend, your training time is done. So you can scroll straight past our tips for avoiding marathon training mistakes here. And start thinking about what happens after you cross that finish line. 

After all, you can't forget about protecting your body after runs. (Especially after the big one on race day.) That's why I want to share some important recovery suggestions. They'll keep you from doing more damage to your body. Both during your training time, and in the aftermath of completing a 26.2 mile race.

Tips for Safe Marathon Training 

Want to know one of the most common side effects of running a marathon? It's day-after foot pain, most often the result of inflammation in the soft tissue of your feet. I usually see this problem with runners who trained on softer surfaces than the race course. Or, it could happen to racers who wore down their shoe padding during training, and forgot to replace worn out shoes.

To avoid this painful problem and protect your feet, you should:

  1. Train on the surface you’ll be racing on. If you are training for a marathon run on roads, a treadmill or trail path won’t prepare your feet for the impact. So take those training sessions outdoors to properly prep your feet.
  2. Run in a well-cushioned shoe. Racing flats or old, worn-out shoes will leave your feet to experience most of (if not all) the impact of the pavement. Of course, you don't want to do the race in sneakers that are brand new. So try to plan your shopping to replace sneakers within 50 training miles, or at least a week, before the race.
  3. Be sure to analyze your foot pain. It's easy to dismiss post race discomfort as a sign you worked hard. But training for a marathon can put strain on your plantar fascia, or your leg and calf tendons. For that reason, if your post-race foot pain sticks around, come see us right away before you start training for the next race.

Now, proper training can certainly help put you on track for an injury-free race day. But it's not a guarantee you'll avoid injury. And that's why the steps you take immediately after your race are so important. Because they can also go a long way towards protecting you from pain. 

Safe Post-Marathon Recoveries: After the Finish Line

What's the first thing you should do after you cross the finish line of your marathon? Change out of your sweaty clothes and get into dry ones. You should also change shoes. (Another pair of running shoes would be best, so your feet won’t swell up and your feet will have the support they need).

Once you’ve changed, it would be ideal for you to lie down and put your feet up. After pounding the pavement for hours, putting up your feet will help restore their blood flow. It will also allow you some down time for your body to recover.

If you’re feeling shaky, make sure you have someone with you when you lie down. Aim to get in several similar rest periods today, for 15-25 minutes each time if at all possible.

Within the first 30 minutes of your finish, get nourishment. I always suggest a liquid containing protein, like a gel pack or shake. During this initial half-hour, you’ll also want to look over your body and assess where, if anywhere, you are experiencing pain. If you think you have a blister or sprain, you’ll want to try to get it taken care of right away.

Early Hours of Marathon Recovery post marathon recovery

Once you’ve taken care of the immediate necessities, you’ll want to head home and get cleaned up. After you return home post-race, and get in some protein. soak your feet for 15 minutes in an ice bath.  

During or after, it's time to get rehydrated. (Drink enough to resume your normal bathroom schedule.) Next, pop an aspirin or ibuprofen to address any inflammation that may be building. (Unless you’re on medications that may interact with the drug, or your doctor told you not to take NSAIDs. In that case, check in before race day to see safe ways to manage pain or inflammation.)

If you’re feeling brave, you may even opt for a cool shower to reinvigorate yourself. Next, get a real meal in and make sure you take in lots of fluids for the rest of the week. It’s probably a good idea not to include alcohol in your post-race celebrations. After all, your body is still in major recovery mode right now. And alcohol can dehydrate you. Which is not what you need after the big race.

At the end of the day, get to bed at a reasonable time. And leave lots of water beside your bed ,in case you wake up thirsty and sore in the middle of the night.

Post-Race Day Care - Finish the Week Strong

The first day may not be your toughest—the next two will likely test your strength quite a bit. It’s a good idea during the next few days to remain active. (You can light exercise like walking, swimming or a quick bike ride. They'll help flush the toxins out of your body and keep you from stiffening up). To further help that process, you can engage in self-massage. (You could even treat yourself to a professional one--you've earned it!)

After the initial recovery period is over, you’ll still want to avoid running for at least a week. (Taking two weeks off would be better). Remember, your body has been through an incredible ordeal. It needs plenty of time to recover, and you would be wise to give yourself that time.

Of course all of the above only applies if you’ve completed your race injury free. But if you sustained a foot, toe or ankle injury while training for or running a marathon? Schedule an appointment with your Houston podiatrist immediately. That way, you can begin your recovery and avoid future complications.



Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.