You did it!! You registered for the races and you worked your butt off for months and months. Then you came to Walt Disney World, where most people come to vacation. You woke up in the middle of the night for four consecutive days. And you ran 48.6 miles.
You did what you set out to do and it was amazing. The courses were as fun as they were challenging. You were surrounded by your people. The emotional high of the finish lines was surpassed only by that moment you’d imagined a million times when they finally put that Dopey medal around your neck.
So you’re on top of the world right now, right?
Or maybe you’re not. And maybe feeling like you *should* be on top of the world makes it that much worse. But why in the world are you sort of sad right now if you did everything that you set out to do?
There are lots of reasons. Let’s talk through them. If any of them resonate with you, let us know in the comments.
- You’ve taken a beating and need to heal.
The stats on what a marathon does to the human body are pretty sobering. Over the course of those 26.2 miles we lose somewhere in the range of 5-10 lbs of water. Repeated impact often has us crossing the finish line a few centimeters shorter than when we started. Glycogen stores are completely depleted. Cortisol levels are high from stress. Immunity is severely compromised. You’re swollen. Your kidneys are stressed. Inflammation is high and your muscles are full of micro-tears. And on top of all of this, your brain hasn’t exactly been your body’s first priority for the last few hours…so you’re in a weird sort of limbo between high alert and mental fog that doesn’t lend itself to being particularly rational or level headed.
And that’s what’s typical after just a marathon!! You’d already run 3 races before you even started those last 26.2 miles.
(Don’t you love that you did something that allows you to utter the phrase “just a marathon”? You should. You’re AMAZING. But I digress…)
All of this should repair itself in time if you give your body what it needs to heal. But the key phrase there is “in time”. And you’ll need to be patient with yourself in the meantime.
Bottom line? Before we even talk about any of the headier stuff, acknowledge that while your head is dealing with all of THAT, your body and body chemistry are dealing with all of THIS.
2. You probably also just left Disney.
You know those post-trip blues that you always feel? It might not be at the forefront, but if you traveled here for the races and then went home, you’ve probably got those too and they’re going to overlap with a lot of the rest of this list.
3. You probably also just left your community.
I know I don’t have to explain this. RunDisney is a family and the races bring us together. More than ever this year, after everything, being together again was incredible. And saying goodbye again after kind of sucked. But those people probably understand what you’re feeling right now more than anyone else. So reach out to them, even if it is from a distance.
4. Healing means trading in a trusted source of endorphins (and just plain mental health) for awhile.
So you need to take time off to heal. Your mind knows that…and a (big) part of you probably welcomes a short break from running. After all, it’s likely dominated your schedule and had you setting alarms for well before sunrise for awhile now leading up to race weekend.
But running has also probably become a major crutch for you. Long hours pounding the pavement are a sort of therapy that’s tough to get anywhere else. Runners’ high is a very real thing. And so is the mental clarity and peace of mind that comes with distance runs.
No matter how much you welcomed the break in theory, it’s probably going to be hard to have long distances taken from you for a few weeks or more while your body recovers.
Try to come into the post-race period with a loose plan in place for keeping your spirits up during your break from running. Schedule time with friends. Make sure you’re still getting outside and getting moving in ways that don’t impede your recovery. Use your newfound down time to indulge in hobbies that you’ve maybe neglected during peak training weeks or months.
5. The fear of losses.
You probably walked into Dopey at a pretty high level of mental and physical fitness. Over the course of training, both your body and your level of discipline go through enormous positive changes – and after awhile the need for discipline falls away because the runs are plain old habitual.
When you’re on a set training schedule, your mind stops fighting the work as much. Waking up and heading out the door becomes a given. If the schedule says 18 miles, you mindlessly head out for 18 miles. And if it says rest day, you mindlessly take your rest day.
After the race, where do those hard earned habits go? Does remembering how good it feels to sleep in derail them? Will you be losing what you worked so hard to gain during your training season?
Two things. Firstly, you don’t need to be in peak shape 365 days a year. Secondly, even setting that aside, what your body needs right now to stay strong is exactly what you’re giving it. Time off from heavy running. Wrap your head around that and, to the extent that it works for you, take some time before the race to lay out your plan for the healing month or so that follows it. Your training plan probably offers some advice on this front. I use Hal Higdon’s Dopey Training Program and look to his post-marathon guidance for a loose idea of what I want to be doing after the races. I also try to maintain my sleep and waking schedule and give the newfound morning time to hobbies and skills that I’ve left to languish while running took over my life. For me, that means things like picking up my camera and getting on my Peloton and going on walks with my kids. What does it mean to you?
6. You’ll likely need to regroup on your obligations.
When your training schedule calls for 20 miles, the rest of the day revolves around it – end of story. And that feels right because it’s for good reason. With something as grand as The Dopey Challenge on the horizon, setting everything else aside feels justified. Asking the people around you to tolerate your absurd running schedule feels justified. Giving your time to hours upon hours of training runs over other commitments and obligations feels justified. It’s hard to have something so completely take over your life…but perhaps a bit comforting to know that what you’re giving time to is what you’re supposed to be giving time to.
After the race is over, you probably still want to get out there – even if for far less mileage – but your priorities probably won’t feel as clearly defined. There won’t be an end all goal that surpasses everything else. You kind of need to step back and let yourself relearn how to prioritize what you do with your days.
7. We need goals.
Confession: This is the big one for me. If you feel this one to your bones, you’re my people and I’m going to be writing more about it for us in the future.
There is nothing in the world like working toward an ambitious goal with singular focus. No matter how many times you’ve run Dopey, at the peak of the training season, when you’re running 40-50 miles a week, it’s hard not to get lost in the process. And so while we might daydream about a life without battles and milestones and goals and struggles – and we’re obviously lucky as hell to live lives where shelter and safety and our next meal aren’t constantly in question – in truth that’s a pretty good recipe for finding yourself depressed and unfulfilled. We need purpose – and sometimes that purpose can be self-imposed.
The tough thing about goals is, once you achieve them you need to find new ones. And while one of the great things about running is that it grows naturally around you as you improve, Dopey is a big fish to fry and it’s hard to find your next Giant Marlin once it’s over.
8. And nothing else changed.
This isn’t going to apply to all of us, but sometimes we’re drawn to distance running because we need it. While we’re out there running the miles our lives sort of fall away. I once heard someone say that no problem is big enough to last 4 hours on the course and, with obvious exceptions for the really bad stuff, there’s a dose of truth in that.
If any of this resonates with you, here’s something to make you feel less alone:
When I completed my first runDisney race it was at a really difficult time in my life – I’d just lost my dad and was very much unfulfilled (that’s being kind) on the career front. While I trained for and ran that race, which was taking place on the 2 year anniversary of my dad’s death, everything felt so symbolic and meaningful. It gave a sort of purpose to it all.
When I ran the race it was everything I’d dreamed it would be…but I crashed really hard afterwards because I came home to all of the problems I’d always had. My dad was still gone. Huge swaths of my life still felt wrong. But I kept running and started harnessing that continued strength and clarity to start changing other parts of my life.
So I credit running with not just getting me through such a tough time but with so many of the changes that I made after – but coming home after that first race to all of the same things that had plagued me going into it? That was hard. I pushed through and came out the other side. But it was hard.
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Mind you, this was an article aimed at helping you understand WHY you probably don’t feel as on top of the world as you think you should and how you might be kind to yourself in light of that…but please don’t lose sight of what you’ve accomplished. You worked hard and you did it. You crossed four finish lines. You collected six medals. Leading up to that were countless months and miles of hard work that you imposed upon yourself – likely for no other reason than because it feels good to do hard things. You are a freaking rockstar, even if you are a sort of sad little rockstar sometimes right now. So rest. Heal. Celebrate yourself. And pick your next challenge. It will be ready when you are.
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If you’re missing home (or love someone who is) and are looking for a way to bring the magic home, I’d love for you to check out my Core Memory Candle collection right HERE. And as always, stay safe and be kind, my friends.