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Marathon Recovery

Running 26.2 miles is no easy feat for your body. You have to take care of yourself after completing a marathon, too.

Recovery Begins at the Finish Line

Jump-start the marathon recovery process as soon as you finish the race.

  • If you feel ill or injured at the finish line, ask someone to escort you to the medical tent.
  • Examine your feet and body after the race. If you have a severe blister, do not try to treat it yourself. Experts in the medical tent are trained to properly treat blisters.
  • Continue to walk after finishing the race. Move for at least 20 minutes. This simple action greatly assists your body in the recovery process.
  • Slowly drink fluids that contain salt and carbohydrates (such as sports drinks and fruit juices), as well as water.
  • Even the most experienced marathon runner can run into post-race complications. Ask someone to meet you at the finish line and stay with you in case you need help.

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Post-Race Recovery

When you get home (or to your hotel):

  • Continue to drink water, sports drinks, and other liquids.
  • Move around periodically to remain loose.
  • Add protein to your carbs to help your muscles rebuild and recover. Eat a steak, potato, and vegetables. Or chicken and vegetables over rice.
  • Avoid bathing in hot water after the race. Stick to a lukewarm bath or cold shower.
  • Replenish before your post-race celebration. Eat a proper meal and adequately hydrate your body before picking up the beer, champagne, or margarita.
  • Sleep and nap as much as possible after the race. Rest is vital to allowing the body to repair itself.

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The Weeks After the Race

Keep in mind the following advice for the weeks following your marathon.

  • If you feel well enough, take a short, slow run — one to two miles — the day after the marathon. This helps with muscle stretching and recovery.
  • Avoid eating energy bars and gels for a week after the race. Treat yourself to sit-down meals, complete with fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Learn from your experience. Take note of what works for you so you can improve your performance in future races.
  • Avoid competitive, long-distance races for at least two weeks after the marathon.

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Managing Aches and Pains

Aches and pains are common post-race ailments. Learn how to handle them properly and when to seek professional attention.

  • Apply ice to relieve pain in joints or soft tissues.
  • If pain continues, take the recommended dosage of an anti-inflammatory pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Motrin®), naproxen (Aleve®) or acetaminophen (Tylenol®) at least six hours after the race is over.
  • Schedule a sports massage for the week after the race.
  • If you continue to experience pain or stiffness for more than a week after the race, contact your doctor or a sports medicine specialist for a medical evaluation.

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Contact UPMC Sports Medicine

To schedule an appointment or ask a question, call 1-855-937-7678 or contact us online.