Irrespective of the distance, allowing your body the adequate time it needs to recover after a race is fundamental for injury prevention and future athletic performance. The time you choose to take off post-race depends on your fitness level and how often you run, but here are a few guidelines to get you started.
5K - 10K
Whatever your pace, racing a 5K or a 10K is no mean feat and even over a relatively short distance the exertion of running at high speed can be hard on your body. The amount of rest required post-race depends on how much mileage you normally run in a week. If 10K is typically a long way for you, take a week off running post-race and opt for gentler exercise while your body recovers.
If your weekly mileage is generally quite high, a relaxed, easy paced run the day after your race will get the blood pumping through your system and help aid muscle repair. You should be fine to continue training 1-2 days after, just be sure to give yourself at least one day's rest before going hard again.
A half marathon is 13.1 miles of cold hard effort and endurance. After any long distance event your body deserves to take some time out, especially as muscle damage starts to increase rapidly following 60-minutes or more of running.
If you ran the half marathon at a relatively easy pace, anything between 5 and 7 days will give your muscles the chance to recover. If it was a serious PB-chasing effort, anything up to two weeks should give your legs the time they need to recuperate before tackling high mileage again.
But you don't have to sit on your bum for a fortnight! Incorporate some cross-training into your routine or try adding 2-3 days of alternative exercise into your week for about 30-minutes each to keep the blood pumping.
Talk to any veteran marathoner and they will agree that 26.2 miles is not to be sniffed at - it's an incredibly long way. After coming out of your training bubble it's easy to forget that now is the time to rest those heroic legs. As tempting as it may be to lace up the following day and run around town wearing your medal - resist and put your feet up.
Coach Hal Higdon maintains that it takes a minimum of two weeks for your body to fully recover from running a marathon. To repair adequately, Higdon suggests treating your training like a reverse taper. 'The training you do in the three weeks following a marathon should be a near mirror of what you did the last three weeks before: in other words, an upward, or reverse, taper,' says Higdon. This will give your mind and body room to get back to square one without the risk of over-stretching.
If you have just completed an ultra marathon, high 5! You are officially amazing. But you're also probably still in the high-mileage (and carb-loading!) mindset. Your feet may be twitching to get out the door, but now is the time to stop, sit back and take stock of everything that you've just achieved.
Just like a marathon, take it easy for the next few weeks and take a break from running constantly, opting instead to cycle, swim or even pick up a new sport. If you can't be fussed to do anything, then don't. Unwind, relax and let yourself off the hook for a few weeks. Ultra running is a serious business and now is the time to recover.