From Highs to Lows: Understanding and Overcoming Post-Marathon Depression

Distance running comes with many highs and many lows. One such low, often overlooked, is post-marathon depression. As a seasoned running coach, I can tell you this phenomenon isn’t just a phase. It’s a real challenge that many runners, including myself, face after crossing the finish line.

What is Post-Marathon Depression?

Post-marathon depression is a state of emotional and mental low that follows the exhilaration of completing a marathon. Runners spend months, even years, preparing for this monumental event. It becomes a central part of their lives. When it’s suddenly over, a void appears, often accompanied by a sense of loss or emptiness. This can lead to sadness, lack of motivation, and a disconnection from the sport that once brought so much joy and purpose.

What Causes Post-Marathon Depression?

A few things are happening here. Physiologically, the sudden drop in rigorous physical activity affects the body’s endorphin levels, leading to mood changes. Psychologically, the lack of a clear goal after the marathon leaves runners feeling directionless. Additionally, returning to everyday life without the structure and excitement of training can feel mundane.

Tips to Overcome Post-Marathon Depression

  1. Acknowledge Your Feelings: Recognizing and accepting your emotions is essential. Understand that feeling this way is normal after such a significant event.
  2. Set New Goals: Establish new running goals or even explore different aspects of fitness. This could mean aiming for a personal best in a different distance, trying out trail running, or even exploring other sports.
  3. Rest and Recover: Give your body and mind the time to recover. Enjoy some leisure activities or hobbies you might have neglected during your training.
  4. Reflect on Your Achievement: Take time to appreciate your accomplishments. Look through photos, share stories with friends and family, and celebrate your success.
  5. Stay Connected: Engage with the running community. Share your experiences with fellow runners going through the same thing. Sometimes, just knowing you’re not alone can be incredibly comforting.
  6. Gradual Return to Training: When you feel ready, start training again, but do it gradually. Avoid jumping back into intense workouts immediately.
  7. Seek Professional Help if Needed: If feelings of depression persist, consider speaking to a mental health professional. There’s no shame in seeking help.

My Journey With Post-Marathon Depression

Jon Wade Running the Monumental Marathon 2023 in Indianapolis Indiana
Even as a coach, I’m not immune to these feelings. After my last marathon, the days that followed were filled with purposelessness. A feeling of now what? I realized it was crucial to address this issue head-on for my well-being and to better guide my trainees. It’s so easy to feel a little lost once you stop training.

What worked for my Post Marathon Blues

Getting out for walks and focusing on my other hobbies was great. Once I had let my body rest a little, it was time to get back out and run. Running with the only plan being to keep up my fitness.

This Coach’s Advice for Once Your Body Is Ready to Run Again

If you miss training for a race, keep up that base, get out, and get some miles down. Joining a local running club is a great way to stay motivated. Just beware of FOMO once you hear about all the races your friends are doing. It’s easy to jump back into hardcore training too soon. Running is not just about the races you run. It’s about connecting with yourself and your environment.
Remember, every finish line is the beginning of a new race.
Keep running, exploring, and, most importantly, enjoy the miles.