Post-marathon blues

Now that I’ve finished the half-marathon, what should I do next?

Me at the end of the half-marathon.

Two weekends ago I finally did the half-marathon that I spent half the summer training for. It went really well – I finished feeling I still had energy in the tank for a few more kilometres, but once I sat down for a bit I realized I was actually tired.

The race setup was pretty good – my only suggestion is that next year they let the half-marathoners walk to Glenora and get off the trail there, instead of doing an out and back on a boring section of trail. Other than that, the race organization and volunteers were great. They were ringing cowbells for everyone at the finish line, and we all got finishing medals. We got a sticker for the run, and a really nice quick dry shirt. And the snacks at the aid stations were great (especially the rice krispie squares – sugary but easy to digest).

Now that I finished this goal, I’ve been looking back at how I got here. I started training back in April, doing small 3 km loops around my house until about the end of June, when I started increasing my training distances to 10km. By the end of July I was up to walking 16 km for my long walk, and by September 1st I did my longest ever walk at 20 km. That made me realize I was ready for the big day.

Overall I walked a total of 487 training kilometres, not including the event itself. I burned 37,000 calories with all that walking (if my Garmin watch is to be believed), so I definitely lost some weight which is a great thing.

I feel like I crave those longer walks now – I really got into the groove of walking at a set pace and then thinking while walking. I discovered that I had to take fewer anti-anxiety medications and that I felt consistently better, mentally, than I had before the walk. I found it really hard not to do anything in the week immediately after the run, as I was so used to lacing up my shoes and heading out for an hour or two at a time. So I went out for an 8km walk a week after the event.

I’ve been thinking of what to do next. I don’t want to do any asphalt events as I prefer trails. And going somewhere else for an event is a no at this point. Maybe there’s something I can aim for next year?

I was looking into the Canadian Death Race, which is held in Grand Cache and which has fascinated me since I was doing my PhD. It’s a backcountry race where you are likely to see cougars and/or bears and where you might end up running in the dark if you can’t keep up. Next year is their 20th anniversary, so it might be fun to do the Death Race 2020.

One of our Science Borealis team members suggested the Tor des Géants, an Italian trail race of 130 kilometers with 12 thousand meters of elevation gain. Maybe one day…haha.

I also happened to have just read Heather Anderson’s “Thirst: 2600 Miles from Home,” in which she walks the Pacific Crest Trail by basically doing a marathon a day so she can claim the title of fastest PCT walker. It has some similarities to Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild,” but is a lot less introspective and focuses more on logistics. One thing I liked about Anderson’s backstory is that she was the dumpy fat kid in school who got picked on by the phys ed teacher, and now she does marathons and ultramarathons. She talks about how she only feels good on the trail, when she’s moving and observing and away from people. I can attest to that – I felt pretty good doing all my walk training and being able to think and be generally away from people.  

So I’ve been thinking of starting to do trail running. I did the walking and it worked well, but I’d like to do a few more shorter local events that require that you run. The last time I did any trail running was back in 2003-2004 when we had moved back to Victoria and I was finishing up my PhD and struggling with mental health issues. We didn’t live too far from Mount Douglas, and I spent several days a week run-walking the trails around the mountain. It made me feel great to be outside tackling the trails – I felt capable, which working on my PhD was definitely NOT making me feel. So I guess trail running has been a solace in the past as well.

I could start small, like I did with the half-marathon training, and do the trails around my house. Then go to longer trails like the railway trail. I still want to walk the full 20km from the Kinsol Trestle to the Glenora trailhead – maybe I’ll do that in the next week or so (as a walk, not a run!).

But in big news – I went back to the pool today! I had told myself that, once I finished my half-marathon, I would get back into cycling and swimming. Wow am I ever uncoordinated in the water now. I felt as though my arms and legs were put on backwards and had a hard time catching my breath. Oh well, I was last in the pool in February so makes sense that I wouldn’t do overly well my first time back. Tomorrow I plan to go for a bike ride in the morning. I just have to remember that I need rest days as well – in between cycling, swimming, and run/walking.

Wish me luck!


12 thoughts on “Post-marathon blues

  1. Congratulations on achieving this! Movement is medicine 😉 as per Clara Hughes… who just finished (or maybe is still on) the Pacific Crest Trail. I follow her on Instagram. She is very inspiring, and a spokesperson for mental health. Cycling is my thing, but not racing, just being on a bike is meditative for me (as long as cars aren’t threatening my life). But walking is awesome too.

    • I’ve read Clara Hughes’ book and can’t say I’m a big fan. But to each their own. I like cycling as well as walking – just went out for a 15km ride this morning. I just read a book about a woman trying to be the fastest to do the PCT – she walked a marathon distance every day. And she did it – the fastest time on record.

  2. Congratulations and good luck! Cycling keeps me mentally and physically on track and has for 30+ years. Just staying healthy is my goal now. I don’t race or do cycling events anymore, but I get out on my bike for at least an hour every day that it’s not raining when I get home from work (longer on the weekends). It’ll soon be too cold here to ride outdoors, so I’ll go to the gym 3 or 4 days a week and/or walk outside on the not-too-snowy-or-cold-or-icy days. Soon I’ll be shoveling the driveway a couple times a week, too. Outside is best, but I have asthma so can’t tolerate really cold temps. I do it all simply cuz it keeps my head straight without medication, keeps my weight, cholesterol and blood pressure down and helps me sleep. That’s motivation enough for me. As we say here in Michigan: Good on ya! Here’s to the next success! 🙂

  3. I say don’t start small on the trail running. Hang onto your current mileage and just start running bits of it… and then bits more… etc. The awesome thing about being a trail runner is you can walk whenever you want.

  4. Definitely the trail running. I started it last summer and did more this year. Is there a local group you can join, as my local running shop was what got me started.
    And you walk the uphills anyway!

    • Yup I’ve decided trail running it is. There are lots of cool runs out there that aren’t on pavement. We have a local ParkRun group that just started and runs on the grounds of the local private school on Sat mornings. I might try running with them, but honestly I’m a pretty solo runner/outdoorsperson…

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