>> Wednesday, April 28, 2010
The streets are now full of cars, not runners. The water stations are torn down -- paper cups swept off the grass. Your race t-shirt is in the laundry bin. The results have been posted for days. And your muscles no longer plague you with that happy-soreness that only comes after running an awesome race. There's this feeling hanging over you. A feeling of accomplishment eclipsed by a feeling of -- what's this? -- sadness!
You've got a case of the post-race blues, my friend.
It's not uncommon to feel this way. In fact, I have a touch of it myself in the wake of the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon. Stephen and I trained our hearts out and devoted months to smashing our old PRs at this year's event. We were successful, but riding that high only lasted a few days.
It's difficult to define what the whole post-race blues thing is all about. But it's not just reserved for runners. In fact, I remember feeling this exact way after most major events in my life. After music festivals I participated in. The prom. High school and college graduations. Our wedding day. All of those big events in life require lots of preparation, hard work, and -- ultimately -- reward. But when the goal is finally met. When you've kicked some major butt at that marathon you spent years thinking about finishing, you're left confused and searching for that next big thing.
It's not totally unavoidable. But there are some things I do to help push through this feeling.
Reflect. Look up your race results. Analyze your performance. Enjoy those race day photos and articles posted everywhere. Look up race reports in Google to experience the day through the eyes of others (blogs, etc.). Write your own race report. Journal. Scrapbook. Whatever. Just take some time to reflect on the event and your success. Maybe you didn't get your best time, but you still put a lot of work into what you did. It's important to mentally recognize and process your efforts.
Reward. Treat yourself to something special for the mere purpose of rewarding yourself. I'm getting a new pair of running shoes after my PR on Sunday. But a reward need not be expensive or even a big deal. Maybe you've been wanting to take a vacation day. Let yourself. Or perhaps you've wanted to indulge in a nice piece of cake. Celebrate like it's your birthday, for goodnesssake! Do something -- anything -- to reward yourself for all that hard work.
Run. But not in the same way. And not in the same places. Physically, you may have pushed yourself to the max. Now isn't the time to push yourself harder. In the week or so after any big race, I become a "Zen runner" and refuse to take my watch with me. I refuse to map my routes. I simply run to run. To enjoy the outdoors. To stretch my legs. And now is an excellent time to enjoy some cross-training. Treat your muscles right and kick yourself a bit out of your routine. It'll help.
Redefine. Truth is, your race is over. I know it's sad. But now's the time to look toward the future. What is NEXT on your agenda? For us, we've signed up for two awesome races this summer: Lake Placid Half Marathon and the Boilermaker. We're super psyched for these events, and we've established new goals in response. For example, Lake Placid is going to be ridiculously mountainous. The goal at this race for me isn't time, but persistence. I just want to run it without stopping. And enjoy the scenery. The Boilermaker is another PR race -- I want to get lower in the 1:13s, possibly break into 1:12. Looking back at my recent performance, I feel confident. Plus, with these new goals in my mind, I'm looking forward rather than backyard. Just chasing those blues away. (Jazz hands...)
Redefinition can also mean making a goal outside running all together. Maybe you've always wanted to try and triathlon. Or get into yoga. Do something else active, like sailing or kayaking. Whatever it is, now's the time.
Whatever happens, don't let how you're feeling scare you. You will get better. You WILL want to run again. You may just be in a funk for a while. But it's entirely normal. Races happen all the time. Goals are fluid. You're constantly getting fitter, healthier, and stronger in the sport. And when all else fails, I find helping others get into the world of running is rewarding. I find myself getting excited about their goals -- and it rejuvenates my own energy and excitement.
Have you ever had the post-race blues? We'd love to hear your thoughts. Just leave a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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