Long Run Recovery

A training program with a good mileage base leads to faster recovery after your long runs. Many factors are important in determining how much recovery time is needed after a long run including the length of the long run compared to the weekly mileage base, a runner’s age, warm/humid weather conditions, etc. The amount of recovery time needed also depends on a runner’s muscle soreness, fatigue and refueling efforts.

After finishing a long run, to avoid muscle cramping, it can be helpful to cool down by walking around for 5-10 minutes before sitting down. Drink lots of fluids, especially those containing electrolytes such as orange juice or chocolate milk. Eat something as soon as you can.

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a feeling of stiffness and soreness that may begin eight or more hours after a long run. It can last three to four days particularly when a runner attempts to run a long run that is too long compared to their total weekly mileage. Muscle soreness may be the result of one or more of the following:

  • Damage to the muscle tissue
  • Accumulation of fluid and breakdown products in the muscle
  • Tears of the connective tissue


For muscle soreness, pain relief can be aided by icing, massage, light activity and slow gentle stretching to increase circulation to the area. Drinking plenty of fluids will help flush the waste products from the body.


No matter how slow you run your long run, it is a hard workout (long run = more stress). Marathon runners whose base mileage is over 50-60 miles per week may recover more quickly from long runs than runners who are running fewer than 40 miles per week. After a long run, it is important to take the time you need to rest and rebuild. If you feel like you can run the day after a long run, find a flat surface and start slowly. You may feel quite stiff. After walking a short distance, your legs should loosen up and running will feel better. If your muscles start to fatigue and to stiffen back up, or if anything hurts, you’ve run enough for the day. If you feel too sore or stiff to run, take a walk or ride your bike instead to get your blood flowing. Avoid doing pace work or hard workouts until you have recovered to prevent injuries to sore muscles.


If you gradually increase the distance of your long run in proportion to your weekly mileage increases, you should be able to recover more quickly as your body adapts to the training.