Post Marathon Depression
- By Doug Kurtis
Marathon depression is a common phenomenon for marathon runners of every
experience level. The excitement
of the marathon season is over and the intensity of preparation is behind them.
runners, there is a sense of relief and they welcome the opportunity to relax
for a little while. For some, if there isn't something to replace all the hours
on the road, the lull of TV boredom sits upon them. The sense of focus and
purpose is lost
a marathon is a very emotional and physical process. This is especially true if running a marathon was used to
overcome a difficult time in one's life, such as a divorce or loss of someone
close. It can also be true when the accomplishment is the highlight of a
runner's life. What do you replace the activity with?
to Dr. Suzanne McAllister, a former member of the New York Marathon psych team
and a marathoner herself, "runners get accustomed to the endorphins
kicking in when they run. It helps
them to be happy. When the
endorphins are no longer released you have a greater chance of depression
setting in. Runners need to find a replacement physical activity if they don't
plan to continue running."
runners move past the let down by falling into what Dr. McAllister analogizes
as the George Plimpton syndrome, "someone who pushes themselves for the
experience and adventure. They then continue the process by doing one new thing
after another so as not to feel depressed."
McAllister puts it another way as well. "After completing the marathon
runners move from the unknown' to the 'known "Can I do this?" to "I've done it". They
are different feelings entirely. From fantasy to reality, i.e. you see the
woman across the room - then you hear her speak, find out a little about her
the original mystery is somewhat over."
after a marathon it becomes important to be aware of how you are feeling. Do
you feel energized by the accomplishment or have your thoughts become negative?
Do you become tearful or irritable easily? Have your sleeping patterns changed?
Other signs of depression are low sex drive, anxiety, shortness of breath, loss
of appetite and difficulty concentrating.
different aspect of post marathon depression could be derived from Seasonal
Affective Disorder, or SAD, which affects moods especially in winter when
darkness lasts longer. This disorder is four times likely to effect women. Many
of the same depressive symptoms occur except increased sleep and daytime
drowsiness are more likely. Also, increased appetite, especially for sweets and
"comfort foods" such as carbohydrates, which may cause weight gain.
overcome post marathon depression by focusing on lessons learned. I've often
discovered more about myself from bad races than the good ones. I spend my post
race time running and collecting thoughts about what the experience was like
and what I could have done differently. I often used those thoughts as
reference to be used later when a similar situation presented itself.
start to feel sluggish and tired then think about getting back out on the road
or in a fitness center for an easy run. If you find yourself not being able to
enjoy simple things then find a friend to confide in or seek professional help
to move forward positively.
Contact Doug Kurtis at Detroit Free Press, 600 W. Fort St.