If you’ve recently completed your goal race then well done! I hope it was everything you wanted it to be. But now you should be thinking, what next? After months of preparation to run a marathon/finish your first race/set a new PB, knowing what to do next without a goal to focus on is perfectly natural. It’s tempting to settle in on the sofa with all the foods you’ve been avoiding during training and claim to be “recovering” or “replacing calories”, and while there’s certainly a place for treating yourself as a reward for all that effort, the last thing you want to do is lose all that hard-won fitness. Now is the time to think about a new goal.
My first priority after any goal event is recovery – rehydrating, replacing calories and resting are key – but that recovery period is the ideal time to think about what to do next. There’s no shortage of options available, so I take the time to think about how I’m feeling and what I would like to achieve. Just run a marathon? Maybe it’s time to focus on shorter distances and get some speed back in the legs. It can feel great to knock out some faster sessions after all those long slow runs, so targeting a 5k or 10k race might be ideal. Conquered your first race? If you’re still smiling and keen to keep running then probably you want to either step up the distance or target a faster time at the distance you just ran. Take some time to recover and then get back out there!
But a new goal could just as easily be something completely different. A quick glance through the race listings these days will offer up all sorts of events which are anything but a straightforward road race: obstacle races, mud races, hill races, trail races…after months of pounding out the miles on the road, taking on something a bit different and indulging your adventurous side can be really refreshing.
Or maybe it’s time to really mix things up. Sometimes we lose our running mojo after reaching a goal and it becomes harder and harder to convince ourselves to go out for a run. Why not use your fitness to try something else for a few weeks? You might discover a fantastic way to cross train and will probably return to running with new-found vigour. This is something I’ve tried recently. After completing the Paris marathon, I wanted to take some time off running to allow my body to recover and (hopefully) avoid getting injured. But I’m not the kind of person who can rest for long, so I knew I was going to need something else to focus my energies on while I wasn’t running. And that something was cycling. Swapping my running sessions for cycling sessions for a few weeks meant that I could mix up my training, maintain my fitness and explore some new areas. I took part in a couple of cycling events and enjoyed meeting new people, but soon found myself longing to get running again. Having a break meant that when I laced up my trainers again I really enjoyed running, whereas just a month earlier it could easily have been a bit of a slog. Spending time enjoying a different sport or a new gym class can really help kick-start the motivation again.
In my experience, the key to getting motivated to run again after a goal event is variety. Whether that’s targeting a new distance, a faster time or a completely different event, there’s always something new to set your sights on. Try running with a new group, organising a social run with some friends to catch up on the gossip without any pressure to hit specific mile splits, or sign up for a virtual race which lets you take part wherever and whenever you want. And if you’re not quite ready to run just yet, why not volunteer at your local parkrun or another event and give something back to the running community. By the time you’ve cheered on all those other runners, you’ll likely be champing at the bit to get back in your trainers again!
An achievable goal that presents a new challenge should be just the carrot needed to get running again after your recovery, so what are you waiting for?