So you’ve completed your first marathon … now what? It’s the question nearly every new marathoner asks — and the answer is as individual as your training plan was.
The problem with setting a big goal like running a marathon is after you cross the finish line all the planning, training, worrying and obsessing end, too. So many highs and lows; achievements and obstacles overcome. It’s simply hard to top.
Since you’ve got that epic endurance base, maybe you set a new goal to put it to use … or not. Just don’t let the marathon become a be-all, end-all culmination of your running career. Here are a few suggestions to top completing your first marathon (congrats, by the way):
If you found logging the training miles to finish a marathon was too time-consuming, you might focus your energy on going shorter. Look for a half-marathon or a 10K to register for, since you can use your marathon endurance base to get you through the race with shorter workouts that focus more on speed. The training takes much less time, but may be more intense.
If you’re one of those runners who found marathon training a true calling, then you might want to pick an even longer distance. Ultras are rising hugely in popularity, and there are thousands of 50K options available. Since 50K races are only about 5 miles longer than the marathon distance, the training load is similar but adds just a few extra miles to your weekly load.
If you absolutely hated the solo training and found racing mentally taxing, you might need more of a party atmosphere that keeps you amped on your training. Relay events allow you to pull in a group of like-minded friends to train and race with — and running as part of a team takes some of the race day performance pressure off of you individually. Plus, it’s a lot easier to motivate for your daily training run when you know you get to chat with your best friend as you tick off miles.
If you’re sick of pounding the pavement, go off-road. You can stick to the marathon distance — or go shorter or longer or find a relay. The new training stimulus stacks well on the endurance you’ve already built, while giving you more of a full-body workout as well as a serious dose of time in nature. Trail running is especially great for runners who often deal with foot pain on the road, since the dirt provides a much softer landing pad for your feet as you rack up miles.
Hey, no one said you were done running marathons just because you crossed it off of your bucket list. If the training and the race itself felt fantastic, don’t cut yourself off from running another. Search for another marathon in a cool location, consider a new training plan to boost your finish time or enlist a friend to train with you. The possibilities are endless even within marathoning.
If you found the pressure to be a huge source of stress rather than pride, it’s absolutely OK to stop racing. You don’t need to have a list of events planned for the year to call yourself a runner, you just need to run. A lot of former racers find that once specific events are removed from the calendar, they relearn a deeper love of running, and don’t just see it as a means to the finish line. So don’t feel as though just because the marathon is over, you need to immediately move to the next event. Consider this your official permission to not race.