You Finished Your Marathon. Now What?

English: Picture I made for my goals article
(Photo credit: WiWoot!a)

You crossed that sweet finish line after 26.2 grueling, glorious miles.

Maybe it was your first marathon and you are basking in the glory of the finish.

Maybe you knocked one out of the park after weeks, months or even years of work.

Maybe you fell short, but are  still content.

Maybe you  experienced a complete sufferfest that you’d rather delete from memory and not mention on Salty Running.

Welcome to the world of marathoning.

No matter the result, we’ve all been there and we can tell you right now that the important question you need to tackle today is:  What’s next?

Sometimes, this question is easy to answer.  Years ago now, after I finished my first marathon, I knew I wanted to run another one before I even finished.  Even more, I knew I wanted to nail a Boston Qualifier (BQ).  Once I did that, the following season with a sweet negative split marathon (woot woot!), I turned whole-heartedly to my next big goal: sub-3:25.  I focused on that goal for six years.  Some seasons I knew I could not put in the necessary training for that pace due to life circumstances so I backed off a bit, but I was always setting new goals for myself each season.

Goal setting is key to keeping our running mojo season after season.  But where do we begin?  We can’t pull our goals out of thin air or we are setting ourselves up for pure failure.  Never fear.  The Salties have some tips!

First, it is critical to evaluate what you REALLY want.  Do you want to keep pushing on that marathon time or is it time to switch it up?  Are you itching like crazy to up that marathon PR (personal record)?  Yes, it is a beast and it is a gamble.  If you are eyeing that PR and are ready to go, GO GET IT!  It is so awesome when you nail it!  On the other hand, if you are stuck on a plateau or are a bit burnt out by the heavy training, you may want to refocus on a different distance.

[pullquote]Some folks try and they succeed.  Others try and short they fall.  I tip my hat to both groups because most people never try at all.[/pullquote]

What commitment to training you can realistically pull off.  Let’s be real. You need lots of time and support from your family to put in the training you need to race a marathon.  Do you have any big work commitments coming up?  Are you moving, starting a new job or planning a family?  Think about this when deciding on what distance to tackle next season.  You might be crunched for time or you may be poised to conquer a 50 miler.  Even better, you may be ready to go all Clove on us and decide to aim to win a 100 mile race!

Once you know your target distance, decide where you want to race.  When I first started running marathons, I wanted to be a 50 stater and run a marathon in each of the 50 states.   While I didn’t care about being in the actual club, there is no better way to see a city than running 26.2 miles through it in my opinion.  But be careful if you decide to run a goal marathon in another city where you have to travel several hours.  Travelling can be exhausting and dehydrating (not to mention expensive).  I recently suggested to my husband that we could travel for a spring marathon in 2013.  He reminded me that last time I did a whirl-wind travel marathon, I was tired and paid for it on race day.  But what if we went for a whole week?  He quickly reminded me, however, that I would want to go to bed at 8 pm, drink no alcohol, and eat nothing less than stellar foods the week before the race.  Then after the race I would be sore and unable to hike and do all the fun things we love to do on vacation.  Um, right.  Good points.  So if you are competitive and don’t want to spend you family vacay in full marathon mode but still want your family there on race day, be flexible and consider staying local.

Research races.  If you are shooting for a PR or BQ, you probably don’t want to pick a super hilly course or a race that is known for bad weather.  Jump onto Marathon Guide and pour over all of the great info.   Also ask friends for suggestions.  Once you pick the perfect race – register!

English: Chicago Half Marathon from 51st stree...
English: Chicago Half Marathon from 51st street overpass Category:Images of Chicago, Illinois (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Announce your  upcoming race to your friends and family.  Nothing helps you get on track (and stay on track) better than letting the world know you are going after something big.  Announce your goal and then get cracking on that training!

So what are my post-marathon goals, you ask? Good question! I met with my coach for lunch and we decided that spring 2013 would be the season to take a swing at hitting some brand new PRs in other distances.  While my marathon PR is now dated 2012, my PRs in every other distance are dated 2007.   I have never trained for any distance other than the mile and the marathon either.  So it seems like now is a great time to get on it.  The main goal race will be a half marathon (TBD), but I will also get some good 5k and 10k work in too.  It should be a season full of races!  I am also going to continue basking in my Chicago glory for a while before I stare down 3:20 in the Fall.  Stay tuned.

What are your goals for Spring and how did you choose them?

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Mindi is a serial marathoner. She is a private practice attorney, wife and mom of two awesome (and super fast) boys, ages 12 and 14. She coaches Girls on the Run and is a big advocate of youth running.

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5 comments

  1. Interesting post…I wish I’d read this years ago after my only marathon, I hardly ran for 5 years afterwards, I was so drained.

    I also think a period of rest after a marathon is crucial, but you discussed this last week.
    My big Autumn race is done and I’m giving myself four weeks of fun-running before starting to train again. And I’ve signed up for a trail 10k – a distance I know I can run easily so I don’t need to train hard but different from anything I’ve ever done before (trail) so I’m really excited about it!!

    For my spring goals..I’m thinking another half marathon but this time a trail one!

    1. Cathryn – I too am giving myself 4 weeks of fun running. It is hard to get off the heavy training mentality, but it is a lot of fun running with my sons and Girls on the Run girls. Good luck on all of your upcoming trail racing!

    2. I love the idea of doing a race that is super comfortable distance-wise but switching it up with trails!! I bet you will love it… I LOVE the atmosphere of trail races!

  2. I totally needed this post! I just finished my first 50k a week and a half ago (having never run a marathon before… because I like making semi-questionable life decisions) and I am so amped for another race, and to actually try doing some speed work and getting faster for once… but it’s been hard to figure out what I want as my next goal race. I have some thinking to do :)