Marathon running recovery programme

How to recover after a long marathon run

Recovering from a long marathon run can take time and your body may experience Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS) after a lengthy run. Regardless, there are ways of overcoming the aching and tired muscle pain that follows your running. Here's our guide to recovering after a very long run so you'll be back up and running in no time.

The body will need to reverse the following changes in order to fully recover from a long run:

  1. Fuel stores (glycogen) become depleted. The body simply runs out of fuel after a run. This can be delayed by taking on carbohydrates during the race.
  2. Lactic acid is produced. This is a by-product of burning fuel anaerobically (or without oxygen). Lactic acid is thought to prevent muscle enzymes from helping to convert glycogen into energy and inhibit the nerve signals to the muscles themselves.
  3. Damage may occur to muscle, bone, tendon or even cartilage. Overuse running injuries may result or more commonly DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness).
  4. Dehydration. If the body gets dehydrated, the blood volume is also reduced. This means that less blood, and therefore less oxygen is able to get to the muscles where it can be used as fuel during running. All metabolic reactions in the body require water. Even a small decrease in the body’s fluid levels can result in a large decrease in running performance.

What is DOMS in running?
Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness or DOMS is sore, stiff and painful muscles following running exercise that the body is unaccustomed to. It is more common following eccentric muscle activity, where the muscles contract while lengthening at the same time. For example, running down hill or landing from hopping or bounding, but running over 26 miles is likely to cause it as well...

Soreness will come on 24-48 hours after running exercise. Nobody knows exactly why it happens but the following are thought to be factors:

  • Muscle spasms which may starve the muscle of blood and the oxygen it needs.
  • Small tears in the muscle, or connective tissues between the fibres.
  • Lactic acid and other waste product production.

How can I recover from DOMS after running?

  • Time is the best healer and the discomfort should generally go within a few days.
  • Warming-down after run exercise is essential. This will circulate the blood and remove waste products such as lactic acid and provide more oxygen to help the recovery process.
  • Some strength training athletes may take an iced leg bath immediately after exercise. It is thought this may help reduce any tiny inflammatory responses in the muscle - only for the brave!
  • Gentle non-weight bearing exercise such as cycling or swimming after running.  
  • Post race massage will help remove waste products, muscle spasm and circulate blood.

Other important factors for post-race recovery include...

Eating plenty of high carbohydrate foods.
The sooner you eat after running exercise the faster you will replenish your stores. At least 50g of carbohydrate every two hours for six hours after the race - more wouldn't hurt! Glycogen stores may take two or three days to fully replenish after a marathon.

Drinking plenty of water.
You will most likely be dehydrated after a long run. Avoid alcohol - a little may help you unwind and relax muscles but it is probably better to avoid it altogether, especially if you are in a dehydrated state as it will only dehydrate you more.

If you are suffering any overuse injuries then allow them to heal before returning to hard training. If they persist, see a sports injury therapist or physiotherapist. Digg redditFacebook Stumbleupon