Don't just stop - When you cross the finish line, the initial instinct will be to just lie down and stay there forever (which is fair enough!). However, it's a good idea to walk for 10 minutes so that your heart rate gradually lowers and your body returns to a steady state. After the walk, find a tree or a wall and elevate your legs for 10 minutes or so to encourage circulation and removal of fluid from the legs.
Post race nutrition - Within half hour of finishing, if you're feeling well enough it's wise to take on board a small amount of food that's easy to digest. An energy bar, a banana or a roll of some sort are good options and continue to sip fluids after your run to rehydrate. Remember to add electrolytes to water or go for a balanced sports drink. When your appetite's back later, of course celebrate with a pizza, a burger or whatever you enjoy. However, it's important to eat balanced meals in the days following a marathon and ensure you consume good sources of carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes and brown rice.
Cool down - If you're looking to be proactive with your recovery, taking an ice bath (with cold water in) when you get home from the marathon could be a good option for you. Please note, this isn't a particularly enjoyable experience so isn't for everyone, but it could make the following few days more comfortable.
Plan to rest - Definitely book the day after the marathon off work if you can. This'll mean you can have a well deserved lie in and plan your meals for the day. Do whatever you enjoy doing to relax but make sure that every so often, you get up and move about a little to encourage circulation.
Roll it out - Once a few days have passed and the initial aches and pains have diminished, booking a massage or carrying out a thorough foam rolling session could further boost recovery. If you receive regular massages, then by all means ask for your usual intensity. If you don't, tell the masseur and request a lighter session.
Return to exercise slowly - If you want to exercise in the days following your race, start out with a short walk before moving onto a gentle run. Your body has been under a lot of strain so for your first light run back, it can be a good idea to choose a softer surface with a bit of give in it. Grass or trails are ideal but ensure you wear the appropriate footwear. If you're not ready to run but you want to get back into exercise, swimming is a great low impact activity.
Of course not everyone will recover at the same rate but the tips above are tried and tested and will definitely help. Good luck with your upcoming races and be sure to let us know how you get on!
By Marc Brown