Post-marathon recovery

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Congratulations: You’ve done it. You're a marathoner. As the excitement and cheers slowly die down, reality might kick in - and fast. Soreness, fatigue, and pain. So what is the fastest way to recover from a marathon?

Things like ice-baths, deep tissue massages, and even foam rollers may seem for many like they’re meant for “the pros” but you’ve signed up to run a marathon, you’re doing one of the toughest events runners can do, and now is your chance to try them all and maybe find the one will be just what you’re looking for when it comes to fast-tracking your marathon recovery.

So what are the best ways to fast-track your marathon recovery time? Find out in this article everything about the best way to recover from a marathon.

Marathon recovery: Just as important as the race

Let’s start with some facts: recovering from a marathon should be viewed as just as important as all the training you have done leading up to the big day.

I have compiled a list of products to use after the marathon, as well as more marathon recovery tips to experience everything that follows the 26.2 miles just as enjoyable as the marathon itself.

What happens to your body after a marathon?

After finishing the marathon your food stores are depleted and your muscles are damaged. 

It’s estimated most runners competing in a marathon will physically shrink by as much as 1.25cm on average due to compression of the spine from impact, and will likely lose significant body mass through dehydration – up to around 10% depending on your pace and the conditions. 

It’s pretty obvious that running for such a long time and distance is something the average body simply isn’t used to. 

You have gone far beyond what you thought your body was capable of. Of course marathon recovery, like all factors of the race, totally depends on how fit and well trained you are.

What is the best recovery after a marathon?

Below you find my step-by-step guide to the best recovery after marathon running. 

Changing into warm clothing.

Remember that by the time you are running the marathon your body already has begun to lower its immunity through the stress you’re putting it under for the past months of training for the big race. 

You ate, drank and (of course) ran to the finish line – now the real marathon recovery begins. After the selfies and high fives, one of the first things to do is to change into dry, warm clothes.

Cooling down too quickly can shock your body and pave the way for colds and illness which actually happened to me after finishing the NYC Marathon this year.

Stretching and putting muscle rub on your muscles.

By the time the marathon day arrives, stretching should be second nature to you so you’ll be able to do it on autopilot. 

The most common injuries during a marathon (aside from blisters, cramps and dehydration) are ankle sprains and hamstring issues. 

In preparation for the NYC Marathon, I had been applying Planetarie’s Muscles Rub every time after I finished my runs. I have first introduced to them about six months ago, and while I was familiar with CBD, I began learning about CBDa.

Scientific research actually shows CBDa to be 1000x more potent than CBD and does not include any potentially harmful side effects that CBD has been reported to cause on occasion. Planetarie has a great breakdown of the differences through this link.

The water-extracted CBDa and cooling Menthol works deep to aid with localized relief including muscle recovery, joint soreness, backaches, and more. Of course, all of this is crucial for runners. 

A base of organic ingredients – including Mango Butter and Jojoba Oil allow for a smooth glide and deep penetration into the skin. 

Honestly, this Muscle Rub was the number one product I needed during my marathon training and the first thing I applied to my sore hammies right after the race. Even about one month later, I’m still applying the Muscle Rub following workouts.

In addition to Planetarie’s Muscle Rub, try to immediately foam roll up and down the backs of the legs and on the quads (the front of the thigh) to stretch hamstrings and reduce recovery time both in training and after the marathon.  

Drinking fluids.

Once you cross the finish line you’ll see happy volunteers trying to hand you water and a couple of more items like apples or salt crackers.

Don’t skip the water because everything you leave out on the training track, you need to put back in. 

It’s not about putting it all back in at once though – slow and steady not only win the marathon but is the way to rebuild your fluid levels at a rate your body can handle. 

Always opt for water, not the sweet stuff like Gatorade and whatnot. 

And after this year’s NYC Marathon, I had my friend carrying the Planetarie Softgels for me. So right when I saw her, I had a couple of Softgels with a cup of water. This product, also water-extracted CBDa, comes in handy in a tasteless, easy-to-swallow format.

With Fractionated Coconut Oil, enhanced with their highest concentration of CBDa, these soft gels provide a potent, precise dose every time. During training, the Softgels helped me with pain relief, better sleep, anxiety reduction, and physical calm with consistent use. With running – as with anything in life – the mental component is vital to success so it is extremely important to ensure your anxiety isn’t high, you’re getting enough sleep, etc.

Eating the right foods.

Hand in hand with drinking post-training fluids comes refueling with the right foods. 

Depending on your level of training, you will need to increase your food and caloric intake leading up to the marathon. 

Remember that during the race you can expect to burn around 2600 calories while running (around 5 average meals’ worth of energy!). 

For best marathon recovery you want to make sure to get those calories back in. Due to all the sugary liquids, you had during the race you may not feel hungry at all right after. 

A warm vegetable or chicken soup can do the job of both fending off any sicknesses after the race, as well as helping warm you from the inside and replacing some of those lost fluids. Carbs are also important to replenish. So if you can, add some noodles or rice to the game.

But make sure to have a good meal at least 2-3 hours after completing the marathon.  

Keep moving. My number one rule hours after the marathon is to keep moving. Keep walking all the stairs, and if you can (YES!) find a party to go dancing at. 

My friends from Adidas Runners NYC always throw a post-race party where I keep my legs moving no matter how tired or sore I am. 

Naturally, you most likely want to lie down and rest. Instead, take a long shower, have a beer and hit the dance floor. 

How many days should I rest after a marathon?

Now that you know my marathon recovery routine you are probably wondering when you can start running or exercising again after a marathon. 

As a general guideline, I suggest taking three to seven days completely off after a marathon.

Try to get a lot of sleep, eat, and enjoy your accomplishment.  After that, begin an active recovery program which includes a continuation of applying Planetarie Muscle Rub to your sore muscles as well. 

Active recovery includes light exercise and even some running if you are not sore. If you can incorporate the Planetarie drink additive into your water or tea to minimize all-over body aches, pains and discomfort.

Why you can trust Sabrina Wieser
Runningbrina is committed to bringing you unbiased ratings and information. Her editorial content is not influenced by advertisers. Sabrina uses data-driven methodologies to evaluate all products, so all brands are measured equally.
  • Most featured running blog, past 6 years
  • USATF certified running coach
  • Experienced endurance athlete
  • 7 marathons

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