What to do After You Cross That Finish Line (If Your Lunch Comes Up, Try to Miss Your Shoes)

So I had the fine pleasure of watching one of my friends finish her first marathon this morning…gotta love that agony/excited to be almost done/thanks for cheering for me/oh lord I want to be done look that she gave down that final stretch. 🙂

Bam, finish line.

jelly belly running

Her choice of race fuel, was our sugary little friends. 🙂


It made me think about what you do after you cross that line. It was interesting to watch what different people did today: hunch over and almost…oh, there it comes. Dazed and confused sort of try to meander the finish chute until a race official comes and guides them so they don’t run into the fence. Shouts of excitement and well-founded pride. Many came to a dead-halt and after 26.2 miles I don’t blame them.

While every race and every distance of course offers its own challenges (speed vs. endurance, hills vs. track, etc.) there are some general things that we should all keep in mind after you cross that line or break that finishing tape.

girl runners

Smile for the camera...people are watching. 😉


* Collect yourself and be a good sport: this might sound kind of ‘Hallmarky’ but it’s very true; whether you are a winner or anywhere else, people respect a good sport. If you win and are still unhappy with the time, put on a fake smile and congratulate the other finishers. If you put up an obvious stink you insult your competition…in front of people, even if your race was stinky, at least be considerate…then you can rage away once you get some privacy.

* Workout: say what? This may sound kind of crazy but hear me out. Depending on where the race was in relation to your season, how long it was, and some other factors you could actually jump on a prime time to increase your fitness by going right into a workout after you cross the finish line. When I was training with the Nike Oregon Project, this is something Alberto Salazar is known for in training his athletes. There are a few reasons; one, physiologically after a race there are a TON of hormones coursing through your system and it’s at this elevated time that it is found you can get more benefit working out in this window than a day you do just a ‘normal workout’. Two, if the race was only a 5k, most of our workouts would have worked out to be more volume. Three, if you’re waiting to peak for a race much later in the season, you would benefit from getting in a more volume workout. Finally, I think there is a huge mental benefit too…workout out when you’re already tired proves you can do more than you think. The last thing I’ll say, and it ties into the endorphins and hormones after a race, you will actually feel a LOT better than you think in that workout. So jog an easy mile or so and then do your mini-workout (ex: 3 or 4 x 800) Tip though: in your race, don’t even think about having a workout after or that you still have more. That will just hold yourself back, so still go out there and race.

* Cool-down: okay, I’ll grant those marathon finishers a free pass on this one for the most part…BUT after any other race you DO NOT want to go from an all-out effort to zilch. All that lactic acid that built up will just sit and stew in your muscles; as counterintuitive as it sounds running, no matter how unappealing it sounds, is the BEST thing you can do to recover.

* Chow down – refuel and rehydrate: there is a crucial 30 minute window of time that you NEED to get food back into your depleted muscles. Think a combo of protein and carbs (a bar would work as it’s easy and fast, but you could do some turkey and a bagel…etc) and make it your first priority once you are done running. I’m blanking on the exact percentage here, but it’s somewhere around a 60% drop in muscle recovery if you wait until after that 30 minutes…no good.

* Ice/Massage/Stretch: if you did a really hard effort and have access to ice right after that may be worth a grimace-worthy bath. And as always, treating your body right and staving off an injury is an ongoing kind of upkeep in our sport. Be smart, don’t neglect the ‘little’ things and you’ll be far better off in the long run.
runner on track
The last thing I want to say which is also very important: chuck self-consciousnees OUT THE DOOR!! Now, I did make some wise-cracks about people in the finishing chute, but I make fun of myself too. I have never had a good running shot, and I joke about it, because I really don’t care. Running is tough stuff, you don’t need to look pretty. So if you cross the line with a loogie stuck to your cheek, have dried salt all over, and your mouth is twisted into a wry look of disgust or pain…who the heck cares? I’ve been there, and so has everyone else. Wear that pain proud, and be proud of yourself. 🙂

1) Worst mistake you’ve made after finishing a race?
Probably the cool-down, I was young and didn’t want to run another step…I paid for it in soreness later.

2) Best tip you have for after a race?

3) Anyone race this weekend and care to brag on themselves?
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17 thoughts on “What to do After You Cross That Finish Line (If Your Lunch Comes Up, Try to Miss Your Shoes)

  1. Workout after? I am so scared of this!! I remember finishing a 5k when I first started running and hearing some guys saying they were probably going to log another 12 afterwards… I was thinking they were crazy. 🙂 I get it though.
    Worst mistake after a race? Drinking alcohol. A beer maybe. More than that=death the next day.

  2. I wish I had gotten to take an ice bath after my first marathon last month…but there was so much sitting around after the finish line, I didn’t get home until probably an hour later and it seemed like it was too late at that point.

    But I did enjoy the post-race 15 minute massage. Felt amazing and the soreness hadn’t set in yet 🙂

  3. Chowing down is my favourite tip! I’m really good at that 😉

    These are some great suggestions…but I am guilty of not doing so many of them! HATE ice baths and wouldn’t even think of working out after a race! Well, maybe a 5k but that’s about it!! I never cool down either, so that’s probably the worst mistake. I always feel like crap after long races because I hate the recovery process!

  4. I usually stick to most of these things…ALWAYS eat after a race, and always walk around, jog, stretch. I finished a race once where the woman right behind me was so negative about her time. Made me feel crappy about mine as well, that was horrible!

    • ya, i have to say i’ve always been proud of ur race recaps cuz u do everything right!! u even can sit cross-legged after a marathon…which blows my mind! 😉

  5. Running Times just did an article about the post-race workout!! I absolutely positively cannot WAIT to try that once I’m healthy again! Ok that might have made me sound masochistic, whatever haha. Also…you trained with Alberto Salazar?!?!?! WHAAAAAAAT?!?! how did I not know this? that is EPIC! do you still train with him??

    As for what I do after a race…well, after a really successful half marathon, I usually stop for about 5 seconds to dry-heave ( I don’t eat or drink during a half so by the end there’s nothin in there to come back up….probs good for the other runners coming in lol!!), and then I go cool-down for 20 minutes and then I drink water and gatorade and try really hard to eat….I usually can’t stomach much more than a muffin or a banana, but then once I’ve showered and relaxed a bit I can really feast on brunch!

    • ya, hard workouts/races usually but a curb on my hunger until a few hours later, but i just force down a powerbar or drink…then get my major nom nom on later 😉

  6. After my races I like to make the day a higher milage day. Usually my legs feel pretty good later on, I’m feeling great because I raced, and half the milage is already done! Plus I know I’ll likely be taking a day off, so I’ll have plenty of recovery.
    I think the most important part is the cooldown, icing, and nutrition! If I don’t get it right in all three, I pay for it later.

    • so true! the funny thing is usually if i have a good race at least (or workout for that matter) the cool-down actually feels good with the leftover endorphins 🙂

  7. That thing about doing a workout after a race is really interesting! I’ve never heard of that before!

    Yeah worst mistake was skipping a cooldown after a race a couple of weeks ago, and then sleeping on the coach home for 2 hours…when I got up, my legs were so stiff I almost fell over! 😛

    I raced this weeked, but it did not go well…I was in a medal position but my leg hurt so bad I had to pull out partway through 🙁 But I’ve got tons more races to come, so I’m not too upset! 🙂

    • ya girl, no more missed cool-downs for u! 😉

      don’t worry, i kno u’ll make a speedy recovery, stay positive like u always do…think of chocolate! 🙂

  8. Pingback: I Run For Bribes…Bribes and Blackmail too I Guess |

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