Marathon Recovery: To Run Or Not To Run…?

You have logged hundreds of kilometers of training in the weeks prior to the marathon and by the same token, broke your marathon PR or just successfully completed your first full one in last Sunday’s Milo 42k elimination run. So what’s to do next?

How does one recover? Do we jog easily for a few minutes a day during the week after a marathon or does one rest completely and let the entire body heal by itself?

There are generally two schools of thought regarding how one should recover the week after a marathon. While both have its own merits, it’s still a multi-faceted approach that applies differently for everyone.

PASSIVE RECOVERY APPROACH: The first week should be easy– do nothing. While muscle strength and endurance will drop considerably after what the body has just been put through, the tissues of the body needs time to heal and by resting the body in full, tear and wear in muscle tissue repair themselves. With the right recovery diet and giving the right fuel your body needs, the immune system is recharged, helping the muscle cells recuperate more quickly.

ACTIVE RECOVERY APPROACH: Most would go for a short run. Many experts say a 20 to 30 minute jog a day or every other day provides gentle blood flow to sore areas which helps bring nutrients that heal into the muscles. It also assists in flushing out the waste products and damaged tissues that serves to reduce post-race soreness. Others attest that it’s a major psychological boost to keep moving rather than doing nothing mentally and physically. A satiation to the running addict in us.


Speaking from personal experience, i’ve tried both approaches but the active recovery approach worked well for me. After my first full marathon (when the first running boom was blooming here in the 80’s), i went for the full rest, passive recovery approach and didn’t run for a full week. During this time, i nursed my aching joints and muscles that left me mentally and physically flat, a bit depressed. When i resumed my running after a week, i still felt sluggish and only got my bearings and felt like a runner again on the 2nd week of recovery.

By contrast, on my 2nd marathon finish and subsequent ones, in opting the active approach, i jogged the day after the marathon itself and did this (with some walking) every other day and fully resting on the other days. After just one week of this activity, i felt light, the muscle soreness were all gone and was ready to resume my regular running again. Many might not want to run (or jog) after a marathon, but short 30 minute jogs and walks on alternate days did the trick for me.


There are other approaches to marathon recovery but of course, no two runners are the same so the best way to find out what’s best for you is to experiment, take the approach of what best suites you.

Together with re-loading on a balance of carbohydrates and protein foods, frequent massages, restoring your flexibility and mobility by constant stretching and doing cross-training in lieu of running for recovery, the right approach will make you more rested, fit and ready for another cycle of periodization training.

Here’s to a fast recovery!

2 responses to “Marathon Recovery: To Run Or Not To Run…?

  1. Hmmm . . . I wonder what approach would apply to me? Hopefully in a year or two (or three or even four) I’ll have the chance to find out.

    Hope to see you at the Run for Home, Rene! If you see me first, do greet me OK?

    Enjoy your active recovery runs.

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