Start Bodily Recovery Immediately
The worst mistake you can make is to quit moving suddenly. Runner's World contributor, author and coach Jenny Hadfield suggests walking for at least 10 minutes after you finish, even though you will be clearly fatigued and probably just glad it is over. The goal of the post-race walk is to help the body gradually cool while the muscles are still being exercised. Even after these 10 minutes, you should consider walking for about 15 minutes every couple of hours. This helps prevent muscles from going from great exertion to virtually zero activity in a short period of time.
Counteract inflammation as soon as possible. Ice works well, and a bath of the lower extremities in tepid water that is gradually cooled further, offers the desired effect. The use of an anti-inflammatory a couple of hours after the race may greatly reduce the discomfort you are sure to experience over the next couple of days. Getting a massage of your legs a few hours after you finish the race is another good idea.
Return to Bodily Well-being
Hydrate frequently and do not give up your regimen of eating smaller meals throughout the day. If you desire, you may go back to your standard three square meals a day over the course of a week. Doing so immediately has the potential to shock your body and prolong physical recovery. It may also make you feel slightly nauseous, especially if you were conscientious about breaking up your daily caloric intake over the course of seven to 10 meals.
Plan for Your Mental Recovery
Consider that for the previous four months you have spent virtually every spare moment exercising and preparing for the big run. You most likely avoided foods you enjoy, simply to hone your edge. Now, that the marathon is over, you might experience what Olympian Julie Isphording termed the post-marathon blues. This is a form of depression that is not necessarily born from chemical brain imbalances but is rather a temporary funk. Combat it by rewarding yourself with a little spending spree, begin planning for the next marathon, and reevaluate your nutritional intake.