Hi Jeff, I was wondering if I could ask you a quick question: I’ve noticed that after finishing a marathon, I’m a little bit out of whack. The training becomes such an important and stabilizing part of my life that, even though I’m relieved that it’s over (as it is quite intense and time consuming), I feel a bit empty without it. Do you ever experience this, or have others talked to you about this type of feeling?
Hey Gabby, thanks for your message. And yes, what you’re experiencing is really very common. In fact, I briefly mentioned that in my book 100 Marathons when I talked about feeling down after coming back from running in Antarctica. It makes sense; after all the build-up and preparation, the nervousness and anticipation, it should almost be predictable that we might feel a bit empty afterwards when we return to regular life. Planning and preparing for the race takes up so much of our energy that when the race is finally over, there’s naturally a big gap there, and that can be unsettling.
Also, and this is something I’ve only been thinking of recently, there’s something to the thought that we’re improving every day during training – or at least, striving to. Being faster or having more endurance is a great feeling; the idea that we’re able to improve is a powerful thing. We peak at the race, and afterwards comes the time when we realize that – at least for now – we no longer on an improvement curve. That shouldn’t be a big deal, but it can be a cause for a little sadness.
The only answer I have for this is to start planning something else immediately. In fact, I often do this during my preparation for the marathon, so the race is only one event on my upcoming calendar. For me, this has usually been another race, but it doesn’t have to be; anything that captures your imagination and gives you something to look forward to – maybe to work up to – would do the trick. Travel, a project, new job, etc. All these work.
I hope that helps!