The following comments are written in relation to recovering from a marathon race. However, the general principles apply to any race distance. Basically the longer the race the longer you need to recover. A rough guide often quoted is 1 day per mile. So to FULLY recover from a marathon it takes around 26 days, for a half marathon 13/14 days and so on. You will of course be back in training long before that. Fully recovered means back to your racing best.
Remember we are not all the same. Some of us have memories of coming down stairs on our backside the next day after a marathon because it was the only way we could get down stairs! Other people are walking and even jogging gently the next day. Some of us can remember both. You will even hear tales of runners who ran a PB a week after their marathon. We are definitely not all the same. An example of a schedule for recovery from a marathon over a 4 week period is shown in the link below.
The time to start GENTLY stretching is immediately after your marathon finishes. This is true of any race finish. Those of us who have actually run marathons know how difficult this is. However, difficult as it may be, try to GENTLY stretch as soon as your mind will allow. Note as soon as your mind will allow. Your body will probably object but it will be worth the effort. Keep stretching as often as possible during the next 10 – 14 days.
Whether you are male or female the same applies, do not be macho. You are not trying to prove you are the toughest/hardest runner in the club, or the stupidest. You are, presumably, trying to recover from the marathon and get back to racing and running as well as you can as soon as you can. As I have said already some members will be back to racing and training flat out within a few days. Let them, it is their body, you look after your own body, no one else will. Remember you only get one body, treat it like a friend, not something to be punished.
Gradually build up your running mileages over the recovery phase (i.e. 4 weeks for a marathon, 2 weeks for a half marathon and so on). Start on race week + 1 by incorporating walking as well as running. This is particularly true of those who have just raced a marathon. Active recovery is the key. If at any time during the recovery phase you are feeling particularly tired or have any sort of grumbles in your legs etc, listen to your body and take a rest day!