You know that elusive runner’s high? The one that leaves you buzzing for hours and makes you feel like you could take on the world? Well, multiply that by 100 and you’ll have some idea of what my post-marathon high felt like. It was magical.
I felt empowered. I could do anything. Anything, I tell you. And so it was, the day after the Virgin Money London Marathon, I started researching my next challenge: another marathon! A 30K trail race! An ultramarathon! Mentally, I was ying so high, my brain didn’t stop to take stock of my physical condition – my aching legs and black toenails and general exhaustion.
A week later, I went for my first run. I’d just done 26.2 miles, so I figured I could manage at least an hour and a half. I almost managed it. I hadn’t taken into account just how tired I still was.
I needed a little more quality recovery time before planning any more running jaunts. I scaled my running right back, to let my worn-out body repair. But when you’ve spent months training for a major event, it can be hard to stop: that routine, that mileage – it becomes such a big part of your life that suddenly cutting down feels like a real loss.
Gah! The combination of the marathon being over, the exhaustion and the fact I hadn’t yet settled on a realistic next goal meant, without realising it, I’d become a victim of the post-race blues.
A day or two of wallowing later and I had a three-point plan, designed to give myself both a physical and mental boost, and kickstart my running again:
1/ I gave myself permission to rest
Even though I was too tired (both mentally and physically) to consider running, I felt guilty that I wasn’t. So I set myself an enforced break of 10 days, during which time I wasn’t allowed to run. This immediately took the pressure off and I really started to enjoy my recovery. I indulged in a deep-tissue massage, I went on walks, I played with my kids a LOT. And slowly, I began to notice that, rather than needing to head to bed at 9pm each night (standard during the latter part of marathon training), I actually had the energy to stay awake, phone friends and – wow – go out for dinner once (I know! A social life! Who knew?). It was pretty great. I felt refreshed.
2/ I only ran when I really wanted to
It was a couple of days after my 10-day enforced break that I laced up my running shoes. But on the 12th day, I woke up and had to run: so much so that I sprang out of bed before any demands could be made of me for the little ones, and pelted out of the door, where I headed to the nearby woods and did a 20-minute circuit. And you know what? All that rest had paid off: I felt strong, energised and head-over-heels in love with running again.
3/ I set myself a different challenge
For me, 2017 has so far been consumed by training for a long-distance road race and, while it was a huge life highlight for me, it’s definitely time for a change. Which is why I have entered a local trail 10K. Described as ‘challenging’, ‘hilly’ and ‘designed by a sadist’ (eek), it will be a world away from all those flat pavements I’ve recently been pounding – and just what my mind, body and soul needs.
You’re probably thinking that, with my new goal well and truly in my sights, the past few weeks have been about idyllic trail runs along sun-dappled paths as I get fit for my challenge… but you would be wrong. I have kids, remember? And so, over the past few weeks, we have all, one by one, been hit by a tummy bug, which has once again halted my running to a standstill.
“Mummy, has this all happened because Seren licked a bin?” my eldest asked me forlornly, as he sat, sick bowl in his lap.
Possibly, poppet. Possibly.
I’m disappointed I haven’t been running for a while. But as a mum of a toddler, sh*t happens (and sick, for that matter) and I just have to go with the flow. The trails will still be there, waiting for me once everyone is better…