Updated March 31, 2014
Your recovery starts the second you cross that finish line. If you're experiencing a lot of pain, feel light-headed, or just not right, head immediately to the medical tent – it should be right next to the finish line. Make sure you drink and eat something right away. Resist the urge to plop down on the ground -- your legs will stiffen up right away if you do. Walk around for at least 10 minutes to bring your heart rate down safely and avoid the risk of blood pooling in your legs.
Even if you're not feeling sore or fatigued, take a few days off from running. Don't worry about losing fitness -- your body needs rest. Go for a walk if you want to stretch your legs, or do low-impact cross training such as swimming. When you start running again, keep your runs short and easy for a couple of weeks. Your body will still be recovering, and running too hard or too many miles could increase your chance of injury.
Do some light stretching every day, but be careful not to overstretch.
Massage is a great relief for your muscle pain and stiffness. Wait at least 2-3 hours after your marathon before you get a massage, or do it the day after your marathon. Just make sure the masseuse keeps it gentle.
You've trained so hard, scheduled your life around your running, and now you've accomplished your goal. It's normal -- and actually very common -- to feel somewhat depressed and disconnected once your race is over. The best way to cure the post-race blues is to set a new goal. Give yourself a few weeks to recover and pick out another race. (And it doesn’t have to be a marathon!)
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