I have to say, this year’s taper is going better than anticipated. What is taper, you ask? It’s the time in marathon training when you have completed your last 20 mile run and are gradually decreasing mileage over 2-3 weeks until race day, allowing your body to repair itself and restore its glycogen reserves in preparation for your marathon. This time in training is notorious for creating its own special brand of crazy: Taper Madness.
What’s different for me, and for most of my peers also training for fall marathons, is that the race this year will be virtual. That means no crowds, no course support, and no time limits. No getting to the start area super-duper early to find a parking space. No waiting around for hours in the cold for the start of the race. You get to control when you start your race and, to some extent, the weather on race day. Most of the dreaded pressures of race day are off.
However, in past years, taper madness was real! Typical issues include massive amounts of self-doubt, crazy expectations that the sequence of runs with decreasing mileage would be easy (they never are!), and extremely weird dreams. My recurring nightmare usually has something to do with getting to the race without any of the proper gear and carrying a 50 lb. backpack. My first marathon training cycle, however, I was expecting a couple of weeks of blissful break from heavy miles, not the black clouds of self doubt. Even this year, with far less pressure, I’m still having some of these issues.
Hypervigilance is another common phenomenon. This may come in the form of obsessive cleaning, consistently stalking the weather forecast for race day, and worrying about every little ache, pain, and sniffle.
Anxiety may manifest in other ways as well, since you have temporarily lost that physical outlet for all of your frustrations. You may have a shorter fuse than normal. You may want to eat ALL THE FOOD. Or you may lose sleep worrying about race day.
We must remind ourselves that the work for race day is done. The hay is in the barn, so to speak. Trust your training. Control what you can, including hydration, nutrition, and sleep, as much as possible!
In this phase when you reduce your running mileage, taper is a great time to read an inspirational book about running! My favorites in past seasons: Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer, Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor, and Finding Ultra by Rich Roll. Sometimes reading books about running can help you focus on your upcoming race.
Last year pre-race, I was dealing with a sudden onset of tendonitis after my 20 mile training run. I was able to manage with a bit of self-rehab and rest and through the miracle of KT tape. I finished MCM 44 relatively unscathed, minus a large blister on the bottom of one foot from my feet being wet all day. (If you haven’t heard about the horrible race conditions for the Marine Corps Marathon last year, it started in a monsoon and ended in an oven, to sum it up! You can read my story here!)
This year, I’m looking forward to spending 5 plus hours of quality time with my best friend, on our feet, running in the beautiful city of Richmond. We were planning to run Sunday, but with the forecast right now calling for the possibility of major downpours due to the remnants of Hurricane Delta, we will likely race Saturday. The scenery will be a stark change from running in our nation’s capital, but we will still earn that amazing Marine Corps Marathon medal. Only 2 more, and I will be a member of the Runner’s Club for MCM!
If you are training for a fall marathon, I wish you a pleasant and restful taper!
If you’ve experienced taper before, what “symptoms” have you had? How do you manage? I’d love to hear about it! I’ll have a “race” recap next week. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.