This is a common dilemma for anyone who runs a marathon, myself included.
In preparing for the big day, we get ourselves hyped up to such an extraordinarily high level, with all eyes on running the biggest race of our lives, and then, in a blink of an eye, it’s over. The marathon comes… and goes. Back to normal life. Our brief stint as a “cardio super hero” is now over, and we rejoin the masses of normal people. How depressing.
I like to refer to this as a “runner’s postpartum.” It’s a helpless, dirty feeling. And, in my own case, having run the 2013 Boston Marathon several weeks ago, my own emotional letdown is further magnified by the fact that I was one of the 5,700 unable to cross the finish line due to the Boston bombings. So not only did I not officially finish, but now I have to deal with the emotional baggage of the journey being over.
I’ve tried to put my finger on it, and I think I have a pretty good handle for why this happens.
Here’s the deal. When doing my long runs throughout January, February and March, I tend to be fixated on visualizing one thing only: the marathon finish line. Nothing else. It’s about the chase, the mission just to get there, or as cliché artists put it “it’s about the journey, not the destination.”
After all, show me one person who tells you that when they run a 20 mile long run, they’re thinking about that work-related project due the week after the marathon… or about how they need to clean their storm gutters this summer. Nobody does! All marathon runners focus on ONLY the big day, and that’s why it’s so hard to cope when it’s all over.
So what’s the best way to overcome this and bounce back?
I guess everybody moves on in different ways. So last year I tried something new—and it seems to have worked for me, and most importantly, my fragile psyche. I find that putting together a year-round race schedule is my ideal way to remedy this post-race let down while still retaining a little bit of “eye of the tiger.” What I do now is I typically run a 10K in late June and a half marathon in the fall. This works for me because, when combined with the marathon in the spring, all represent three distinctly different distance events that require ongoing training.
My advice is to have your race schedule set even before embarking upon your 26.2 mile journey. Commit yourself to these events at the beginning of the year. This way when the marathon is over, you’re locked into your next event. No backing out when your office co-worker approaches you about your participation in the next big race.
If this doesn’t work for you, well, my next piece of advice is simple. See a therapist.
Tracy is a media professional and a comedian who has run the Boston Marathon 8 times. He blogs regularly at alongwaytoboston.com