First of all, congratulations on your finish! To recover properly and treat those post-race ailments to be sure that you’ll be ready for your next race, follow the usual steps of rest and a gradual return to running and training—with added emphasis on treating any specific areas that are bothering you.
In the immediate post-race period, once the adrenaline rush is over and before you start celebrating, stay warm and continue moving. Walk through the post-race area and find a place to stretch. Keep replenishing your electrolytes and fluids, as you’ve done throughout the race; eat something if you feel like you can; and figure out what parts of your body need attention.
Many runners will find that specific areas in the lower extremities are painful after a long run. These complaints can range from blisters to tendinitis. (Make sure that your clothing, shoes, and socks are in good shape; if not, it’s time for replacements.) Runners are often faced with pains called tendinitis in a variety of places, including the knee (patellar tendon and iliotibial band) and ankle (Achilles’ tendon and peroneal tendons). These pains usually aren’t permanent or disabling, but they should be treated appropriately.
Often, tendinitis results from overuse relating to improper training technique or body mechanics. Sometimes, as I have personally experienced, they occur because of muscle weakness or imbalances that are exaggerated by long-distance running. Core, hip, and buttock exercises are essential to preventing these pains, and they should be in the runner’s toolbox during recovery as well as training. Good luck at your next race!
Dr. Moira McCarthy is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and shoulder surgery at Hospital for Special Surgery. A recent graduate of the residency program at HSS and a current fellow in sports surgery, she has experience as a physician with professional teams such as the New York Giants and the New York Liberty. Her research and clinical focus is on shoulder and knee injuries, specifically ACL injuries and reconstruction, ACL reconstructions in female athletes, and shoulder instability.