I’m writing this at quarter after 5 on April 7. In two weeks time, I will (hopefully, please God) have crossed the finish line of the 118th Boston Marathon. Hard to believe it’s so soon!
That means everyone planning on racing is now in taper mode (for a marathon, it traditionally starts three weeks out from race day), when you seriously dial back your running distance and focus on getting physically and mentally ready to run 42.2 km. That usually involves lots of stretching, gentle cross-training, shorter, less intense runs and, of course, the infamous carbo-loading.
The problem is that this go-around, I don’t really feel like I have anything to taper from. My last run was February 27, so I’ve kind of already been tapering for the past six weeks.
The taper period is already notorious for being a very difficult time mentally for many runners. I was listening to a taper-themed episode on the fantastic Runner Academy podcast with Matt Johnson, who said a runner’s biggest enemy during the taper is him or herself. Your mind starts playing games with you, and you become convinced you haven’t trained nearly enough. You’re still consuming lots of calories, mainly in the form of carbohydrates (although there are interesting arguments for fat-loading as a way to gain some extra seconds), but because your workouts are reduced significantly, you may put on two or three pounds, so you could feel a little sluggish, bloated or heavy during the taper period (although you will NEED that extra weight and energy from that glucose storing on race day so don’t panic!). You also have a lot more free time now that your days aren’t filled up with 3 hour runs, so that translates to a lot more time to worry!
But the most important thing to remember is that by this point, what’s done is done. Getting in one last long run or squeezing in more intense speed workouts isn’t going to help you – it will only increase the possibility of injury or fatigue. You want to show up on race day with well-rested legs that are ready to run.
Last year I felt fairly good throughout my taper leading up to the Gettysburg North and South marathon. I had followed my training schedule perfectly and felt confident and prepared. My only mistake was in checking out a bunch of running magazines from the library and reading all their marathon advice articles, because that seriously messed with my head and I started second-guessing myself. My advice would be to stay away from the mags and don’t compare yourself to, say, Kara Goucher’s taper plan.
This year is completely different because of the injury so I’m not really sure how to approach tapering. Do I decrease my pool and cycle workouts? Do I decrease both time and intensity, or just intensity? Is there anything else I can do?
I don’t think very many people read this blog, which is fine – it’s more of a personal log, I suppose, but if anyone out there reading this has advice on how to taper when you’re injured, I’d love to hear it!
Running update: Yesterday I went to the track again and did five rounds of 2 km slow jog with 400 m walking intervals between each round. I guess technically that means I ran 10 km, but not all at once because of the interspersed walking, and my running was very, very slow. It seemed to work though – my leg felt the strain, but it wasn’t serious enough pain to affect my gait (maybe a level 3.5 on a scale of 0-10).
I’m debating right now if this should be my strategy for Boston, because the “run 2km, walk 400 m” was manageable and today, although both my legs are sore, I have no pain and was fine walking to work this morning, although the rest of today is definitely a total rest day. Tomorrow I’ll go back to the track and maybe experiment with a different ratio of run:walk.