Hello Taper, my old friend
I've made it to you once again
For 13 weeks you’ve seemed elusive
My longing for you so effusive
And it’s tempting to think the work is now all done
But still I run…
Within the bounds of taper
That’s your lot I’m afraid. I’m neither creative nor talented enough to make up running related lyrics to an entire classic song. I’m not Godfrey.
Last time I wrote all about how tough I was finding training and how I was knackered and niggly and was modifying my expectations. Today I am delighted to be able to report that there were no further mishaps in training (apart from a very persistent blister on my big toe - it’s really sexy training for a marathon) and I’m feeling much more prepared.
It’s interesting. Most runners have a favourite subject to talk about, and that subject is running. Races, kit, training sessions, pacing plans, injuries - anything running related and we’re more repetitive than Theresa May croaking out in a strong and stable voice that Brexit Means Brexit. Generally though, when someone is having a tough time and they’re having a face to face conversation with you they tend to play it down and try to sound positive.
Writing updates about the training for London club ballot places seems to be a cathartic process. Certainly I can remember more posts about people having to dig deep or change their original approach than I can where everything went 100% to plan. It certainly helped me work out how best to approach the last few weeks of the main plan and where I should be pitching my goal for race day.
The last few of weeks’ training have been good; I’ve swapped back to my old model of shoes and the niggles seem to be calming down as a result. I’ve managed three decent long runs in a row, with a particularly strong 18 miler at Kingston at which good company helped me pace it well and get a good fast finish (thanks again Trev). I’ve added an extra day of recovery into each week and have therefore been better able to hit my session targets, helped a huge amount by running most of them with a small but special group of running buddies and by encouragement from other running buddies who are too fast for me to actually run with. I’ve completed my last proper long run of 20 miles, am still mostly in one piece, and all in all I feel much happier about the big day in three weeks’ time.
Most importantly I now get to enjoy my favourite part of the whole process...TAPER! Marathon training is super tough and making it to taper in one piece is no mean feat. But make it I have!
I love taper. You get to run less, eat more, and as it’s now the home straight it feels safer to go around telling people that I’m running a marathon you know. You did know? I’ve already told you? Several times? Oh. Well anyway, I’m running a marathon you know!
Taper is a balancing act. I know some runners who actively hate it, because they feel like they’re not doing enough. And you do still need to train - if you stopped doing any training at all for three weeks then race day would be a shock to the system! But after weeks of 16, 18, 20 milers a gentle little 15 on a Sunday morning sounds positively delightful.
Taper is the fine-tuning bit. You keep practising race pace, refine your nutrition plan, make sure you’re comfortable with the route, check your kit is all tried and tested and iron out any potential stressors that you can control (reports that I have bought new Runderwear in a shade of raspberry pink to match my running shoes in order to avoid the horrifying prospect of my pants clashing with my trainers on race day can be neither confirmed nor denied).
Oh, and carbs. Taper is also about carbs. At least for the last few days.
That said, it’s equally important to remember that there will be some things you can’t control. The weather, for example. Or how congested the race will be. Or how many people dressed as rhinos, toilets, or helicopters might come out of nowhere and zoom past you (I did beat that helicopter over the line though). But taking the time to chill out and think things through during these last few weeks of gentler training can definitely help you stay calm and keep your focus.
Ah, taper. I’ve missed you my sweet carby friend.
Let’s see if I’m still so zen in a couple of weeks shall we?