Fatigue Following Marathon

Got a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


About a month ago, I ran my first full marathon, a trail one. Of course, I was exhausted afterwards, so I waited five days before running again. Now, it seems no matter how slowly I run, I can hardly make it to the 1-mile mark before having to walk. I don’t feel tired, but my legs start aching. It’s discouraging, because I have no idea what to do. I just want to be able to run for hours again, but I can’t even make it past 10 minutes.


How is your nutrition? Marathons drain the body of glycogen stores. Most people with high-carb diets (55% carbohydrates) bounce back in a week, but some take longer— even a month according to some studies. My Marathon Recovery Programs suggest a 5-week ramp to guarantee a gradual return to form. It takes time to recover after a marathon: physically and psychologically. On top of that, you chose a trail marathon for your first marathon. I applaud you for your choice, because I love running trails, but this surface can be difficult both to run and to recover after the run, because uneven surfaces stress the muscles more than do smoothly paved roads. Cut back on your miles in the post-marathon period. Cut back on your pace. Program in more rest days. Substitute cross-training for some of the running miles. Hopefully, you will begin to bounce back soon. A Registered Dietitian might help. Check also iron stores. If fatigue continues, it might be for reasons other than the marathon. Seek medical advice.

Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for'Runner's World'and author of 34 books, including the best-selling'Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that more than a quarter million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks.Hal uses'TrainingPeaks'to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans.'Check out more of Hal Higdon's training plans here'or on'his website.