Life after the marathon

I didn’t get to watch the marathon yes­terday, but I did see the req­ui­site Gatorade detritus on the side of Comm Ave as I drove back into town after a weekend away. For all of you out there recov­ering, con­grat­u­la­tions and good luck. Adam Thomas from the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences has a few words of wisdom for taking care of your­self these next few days. And for the rest of you, who like me may be won­dering what in the world drives a person to com­plete a twenty six point two mile run, scroll down to read a bit from psy­chology pro­fessor David DeSteno.


It is impor­tant after you finish run­ning the marathon to not stop and sit right away.  Walking a little and doing some light stretching after the race, can help won­ders in recovery.  I rec­om­mend the day after the race, get­ting on a sta­tionary bike or in a pool for 20–30 min­utes to work lactic acid out of your mus­cles.  Moving around a lot the next day is cru­cial to proper recovery.  Stretching your legs (Ham­strings, quads, gluts, hip flexors, calves, etc) is very impor­tant, hence get­ting up and walking around espe­cially if you have to sit at a desk all day).  Also don’t neglect your arms, stretching them and moving them around is equally as impor­tant and usu­ally ignored because the legs ‘hurt’ a bit more!  Get a short (2–3 mile) run in about 2–3 days post marathon, and it should be slow and com­fort­able – a nice jog to get the mus­cles working again!“
– Adam Thomas, Clin­ical Instructor, Depart­ment of Ath­letic Training


One simple ques­tion often lurks in the minds of the people watching the run­ners of the Boston Marathon from the side­lines:  Why?

It’s a good ques­tion, and a fairly basic one at that.  What makes any of us per­se­vere at a task that, although dif­fi­cult in the moment, can pay div­i­dends in the long run?  Research from our lab has iden­ti­fied one impor­tant part of the equa­tion – pride.  As emo­tions go, pride has a bit of a bad rap.  It usu­ally makes us think of people who are “posers” – people who think they have some spe­cial quality but don’t.  It’s cer­tainly true that pride (often termed hubris in such cases) can lead to a down­fall, but if pride’s so dele­te­rious, then why do our minds engage in it?  The simple answer is that pride can be very adap­tive.  Our work has shown that it moti­vates people to accept dif­fi­cul­ties in the short-​​term for greater ben­e­fits (including recog­ni­tion by valued others) in the long run.  Unlike simple feel­ings of hap­pi­ness, which make people want to keep the good feeling going by avoiding any dif­fi­cult deci­sions or tasks, pride gets us up off the couch and makes us willing to accept pain for sub­se­quent gain.  That nature of that gain, of course, can be very dif­ferent for dif­ferent people.  For some, it’s fin­ishing in a record time; for others, it’s just fin­ishing at all.  But the sense of pride people feel as they train, and the rush of it that comes as they approach their goal, serve as the mind’s fuel to propel them up Heart­break Hill.”

– David DeSteno, Asso­ciate Pro­fessor, Depart­ment of Psychology

Photo: Plutor, “2012 Boston Marathon” April 16, 2012 via Flickr. Cre­ative Com­mons attribution.