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Exploring Post-Race Sadness: Why Do Runners Experience It and How to Cope With It

A woman, surrounded by weary runners, sits solemnly on the side of a road, her face expressing post-race sadness.

Exploring Post-Race Sadness: Why Do Runners Experience It and How to Cope With It

Completing a race after weeks or even months of training is a great accomplishment for any runner. After all the hard work, sweat, and tears, crossing that finish line is an amazing feeling that cannot be described in words. But what happens after that? Many runners experience post-race sadness – a feeling of emptiness, disappointment, or even depression after completing a race. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons behind this phenomenon, how it affects runners, and most importantly, how to cope with it and move on.

1) Feel-Good Hormones:

A common explanation for post-race sadness is a drop in feel-good hormones, such as endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. During training and the race itself, your body produces these hormones, which elevate your mood, reduce pain, and provide a feeling of accomplishment. However, once the race is over, the levels of these hormones drop, causing a feeling of withdrawal and sadness. So it’s not uncommon to feel a little down after experiencing an endorphin high.

2) Training As A Lifestyle:

Another explanation is that during training, running takes up a significant part of your routine – from fitting in runs to special diets and sleep schedules. When the race is over and there is no more training to fill that void, runners can experience feelings of emptiness and a lack of purpose. Without a schedule to follow and goals to work towards, it’s easy to feel lost and unmotivated.

3) Comparison To Others:

Social media has made it easy to compare your results and experience to others, which can cause negative feelings of inadequacy or disappointment. Seeing others reach goals or put in ‘perfect’ performances can leave you feeling like you fell short or failed yourself. The constant barrage of performance data and success stories can put a damper on your own accomplishments and lead to feelings of sadness.

4) Coping Strategies:

If you are experiencing post-race sadness, there are many ways to cope with it and move on. Firstly, give yourself credit for your accomplishment. You trained hard, put in the work, and crossed the finish line – that’s something to be proud of. Approach your recovery and post-race routine with the same amount of intention and meaning as your race-day training. Continue with your exercise routine, set new goals, and start the process all over again. 

Secondly, step away from social media and don’t compare yourself to others. Runners are notorious for being hard on themselves, especially when they’re comparing themselves to others. Avoid looking at other people’s performances, times, and experiences for a while. Take a break from running, if needed, and focus on other hobbies or activities that bring you joy.

Lastly, seek out support and talk to others. Running is largely a solitary sport, but it doesn’t have to be. Reach out to other runners in your community, join a running group, or talk to a therapist to work through your feelings. Having social support and encouragement can help you break out of the post-race slump and get back on track.

Post-race sadness is a common experience among runners, but it doesn’t have to be debilitating or long-lasting. By understanding the reasons behind it and implementing the above strategies to cope with it, you can move on from your post-race slump and continue to achieve new goals and experiences. Remember, running is a journey and a lifestyle – one race doesn’t define everything you’ve accomplished or are yet to accomplish. So give yourself some grace, take a deep breath, and start planning for the next one.