Thursday, May 16, 2019

Why the Week After a Half Marathon is Always Weird

On the last Saturday in April, I walked my third half marathon and I beat the time it took me to complete the same half marathon ten years earlier (at the age of 35) by 20 minutes.  I also shaved 4 minutes off my time from last year and established a new PR!  In the moments after I crossed the finish line and for the next 48 hours or so, I was absolutely elated. 

You see, it was an accomplishment I wasn't sure I would be able to attain this year.  The overly rainy winter made it difficult to get in all my training walks and coming down with food poisoning (or whatever it was) knocked me out of commission for two weeks in early April.  In the week leading up to the race, I admit that I didn't feel ready and I seriously doubted I'd be able to beat last year's time (my only goal).  Once I crossed the finish line and realized that I had beaten my time, I was so overcome by emotion that I cried.  I rode that accomplishment high for the next two days.  Then, just as I had anticipated, three days later the post race blues hit.  The week after a half marathon, for me at least, has always been weird.

Luckily, I knew to anticipate this weirdness because that wasn't, as they say, my first rodeo.  

In 2009, after my first half marathon, the post race blues hit me hard.  For that race, I had overcome numerous obstacles ranging from plantar fasciitis to shin splints to lower back issues caused by an auto accident.  Start to finish, I invested 16 months of my life to a road race that took me less than 4 hours to finish.  I was so happy when I crossed the finish line and I felt so proud of myself for having pushed through all the difficult challenges I faced to see that endeavor through to the end.  But, considering all the time, effort, money, sweat, and tears that I put into that half marathon, I truly expected the euphoric feeling to last longer than it did.  Within a few days, my life had returned to normal and I realized that despite everything I had sacrificed, that nothing had really changed, with the exception that I felt directionless and that walking had lost all its appeal.  Seriously, I didn't walk again for exercise until 2016 - 7 years later.  I burned myself out that badly.

I've always heard that the higher your emotions soar on the day of an achievement or the more consumed your are towards the attainment of a goal - be it a race or graduation or whatever - the lower you feel afterward.  That's exactly what happened to me.  The sudden shift from months and months of training and having such an intense focus on the goal to everyday real life left me feeling more let down than I had ever known.  The best way I can describe it is like zipping along the intestate going about 80 or 90 mph for hours and then suddenly slamming on the brakes, bringing the car to a complete halt. 

When I opted to participate in the same half marathon in 2018, my approach was completely different.  Instead of being so consumed by the attainment of the goal, I simply focused on enjoying the journey.  Also, my motivation had changed.  I had two motivating factors - one, to do it with my friend who is a breast cancer survivor and two, to simply better my physical well being. The overall experience was so different from my first, I actually enjoyed it and it didn't consume me.   But, even despite this, I still felt a little let down the week following the race.  From January to the end of April, a significant portion of my life had been spent preparing for that race - and I'm not just talking about the training schedule and actual walking.  In addition to pounding the pavement, I spent a lot of time looking at weather reports, planning my walks around the weather, sometimes rearranging other life and work obligations in order to get in my walks, and planning what I would would wear in various elements I encountered.  Even though I wasn't hard-core in my training, the KDF Mini Marathon shaped what I did nearly every single day. Once it was over, there was a palpable void in my life.  

Knowing that these weird, post race blues are inevitable, here are some things I did this year to combat the weirdness.

First, I gave myself permission to feel what I was feeling and not to beat myself up about it.  A simple Google search brings up dozens and dozens of articles and blogs that touch on the subject of post race blues.  This feeling is more common than one might think.  It helped knowing that I wasn't alone in what I was feeling.

Second, I made plans to attend Churchill Downs for a day of horse racing with friends during the week after the half marathon.  It was nice to have something, even if it was just a small, single day event, to look forward to.

Third, I set my sights on my next challenge - a mud obstacle course run in September.  Although I will still utilize my walking for my cardio training, I have to diversify my workouts to include upper body strength.  Switching it up has been a nice change of pace and I do enjoy having something to work towards.

I fully expect to have another weird week after I complete the Rugged Maniac in late summer. Thankfully, I know how to deal with the weirdness and know that the weirdness won't last forever.

Have you experienced any kind of post-event blues?  How did you cope with feeling down?

Photo Credit: Bui Huy via Pexels


  1. I had no idea this sort of thing happens. I'll be curious to hear what your followers who are runners have to say about it.

    1. Yes, it's actually very common and not just with athletes. I've read that it's similar to how people describe feeling after weddings, proms, graduations, and other big events and/or accomplishments.

  2. There's a let down period after any big event and especially a physical one. I think it's great that you already have another on the calendar though!

    1. A former work roommate described a similar feeling after her wedding. She had planned and planned and planned the event for a year. Yeah, I actually registered for both (the half marathon and the mud run) around the same time last year when the registration prices were cheap(er). LOL!

  3. I think it's quite understandable to feel like that. You spend so much time and energy preparing for big events and then afterwards there is a void. I think you've got it sorted though with plans to fill the void and other things to work towards.


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