Top Tips For Marathon Recovery and Those Awful Marathon Toes

April 21, 2011

Information, Training

Running Marathons is a tough job..let’s face it, no-one ever said it was going to be easy.  How you feel at the end of the race, the day or even the week after can be enough to put you off ever running another marathon ever again.  The trouble is 26.2 miles is a bloomin’ long way to run .. and I suspect your aching and sore muscles are agreeing violently with this statement!  Make sure you avoid the pitfalls of marathon recovery.

Everyone is different and some find marathon recovery a cinch, whilst others struggle to negotiate the stairs backwards and are subscribed to the ministry of silly walks for some time after their marathon.

Here are my Top Tips to quick marathon recovery:

1. Just because you’ve finished running a marathon doesn’t mean you have to stop thinking about Hydration and Nutrition. Your body needs to restore glycogen (energy) levels and you need to eat protein rich food to help rebuild any tissue damage.  You should continue to drink sensible amounts of water and if you suffered with cramps or tummy upset during or after your run, you may want to ask your local pharmacist for advice on drinks that help to replenish electrolytes. A sensible balanced diet is essential!

2. Marathon Toes: For readers of this blog or my friends on Facebook and Twitter, you’ll know all about my marathon toes and that I lost nearly every one of my toenails after the 2010 London Marathon … yep, that’s them featured on the right ..not a pretty sight!  The best thing I can advise for feet is plenty of fresh air .. I think I wore flipflops/sandals for most of that year!  Be sensible – wearing high heels the day after a marathon, ladies, isn’t being very kind to those poor ol’ tootsies of yours!  If you think a Podiatrist is just for old folk with bunions, you are very much mistaken.  A professional Podiatrist will help with bruised and missing toenails and can sort out those blisters and problem areas.  Don’t delay, there are plenty of Podiatrists that do home visits and the last thing you need now is an infected blister or toe.

3. Sore muscles – Your leg muscles are going to ache but you don’t have to suffer.  A good sports massage will ease out those knotted, tight muscles and help you relax too.

4. Whilst it’s great to experience that massive high as you cross the marathon finish line, it’s not uncommon to feel a bit low in the days following your achievement.  It’s a sign of fatigue and one easily remedied by talking to other marathon runners. Sign up to Twitter or look through the forums on Runners World or join me on Facebook at Just One More Mile and you’ll be guaranteed to have a good natter with lots of other marathon runners who want to re-live their race experience and swap recovery tips and ideas.

5. This is obvious really but it has to be said .. Get plenty of sleep – it’s when your body is best able to recover from all those hard miles of training and marathon day itself.  Don’t forget that it’s been a long build up and resting is every bit as important as training.

6. If you want to remain flexible and not seize up overnight then very gentle, regular stretching exercises will really help.  Don’t try anything too ambitious as you’ll only add to your existing muscle damage.   Yoga and Pilates are very popular with runners to help with strength and stamina training but are also excellent at helping prevent problems occuring post marathon. Leave it a full week before you try anything strenuous though.

7. Your marathon recovery should be rather like your marathon taper in reverse.  Don’t rush straight back into long runs and punishing training schedules.  Ease back gently and you’ll be less likely to injure yourself and more likely to improve on the training you did before the marathon.

8. If you don’t feel up to going straight back into a running schedule then try a bit of cross training.  Swimming is great for cardio whilst being easy on the joints.

Got any marathon recovery tips of your own that you’d like to share?  Leave a comment below – it’s good to talk!

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4 Responses to “Top Tips For Marathon Recovery and Those Awful Marathon Toes”

  1. Jemima Says:

    Hi Joanna,
    Thanks for this very useful blog. I have suffered from most of the above! Disgusting, bashed up feet, feeling blue, achy limbs, etc…..
    My toes mirror yours from last year. I think I now have an infected one too. Yuk! I am about to have a good old fashioned salt foot spa now.
    I’ve now done 2 marathons and until today I had been saying never again but then I got to thinking, I’ve gone through childbirth 3 times….
    Jem x


    • Joanna Says:

      Hi Jem,
      You poor thing.. you’ve really had a rough time recently. Some people won’t realise the tremendous effort you put into your training and the amazing support you’ve given to others too. You’ve worked so hard on your fundraising for Pancreatic Cancer UK but now it really is time to look after you. Make sure you get a Podiatrist to come and see you .. marathon toes can be incredibly painful and if there’s any hint of infection it’s better to get it seen to sooner rather than later. You know all this of course .. you’re an experienced marathon runner!

      Now, what’s all this about never running a marathon again??… Who am I gonna run the Virgin London Marathon in Olympic year with then??!!

      Rest, relax and know that you ran a fantastic marathon and you have fans everywhere… especially here at ‘Just One More Mile’ ;)



  2. Tomassi Says:

    Hi Joanna – just wondering what benefits ice baths provide for my recovery after a marathon? My physiotherapist recommended a massage which was great, but I’m unsure if a cold bath would also help, or is this really needed within hours of the race? Thanks for any advise!


    • Joanna Says:

      Apologies, my previous reply has disappeared into the ether. Ice baths are really only beneficial immediately after a marathon or strenuous exercise. A professional massage therapist can continue to help you recover after your marathon though. Active recovery is really important i.e. keep moving but also ensure that you are taking in sufficient calories and nutrients to replace lost energy and help your body repair…and don’t forget to keep up your fluid intake.


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