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Monday, March 28, 2011

The Three T's: Training, Taper and Trust

On Saturday, a bunch of us who run for (six different charities managed by my friend, Susan Hurley) boarded a bus in front of the Doug Flutie statue at Boston College to take part in an organized 21 mile long run on the course.  We were dropped off in Hopkinton at the starting line of the Boston Marathon.  Other bigtime organizations were out in full-force as well, such as Team In Training (Leukemia and Lymphoma) and The Liver Foundation.    

Did you know that running for a charity totally ROCKS? 
Well, it does. 

Know why?

Because we get the rock star treatment.  We had a bus (equipped with a bathroom, mind you) chartered to take us out in style.  We had six different stops along the course just for us, complete with water, gatorade, m&m's, pretzels and other assorted goodies.  Not only that, but we had people along the route from Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley and Newton.

On a training run.
No joke.

There was even a "finish" line at the end of our run, drawn on the asphalt in chalk.  We were awarded hugs, high-fives, and beads after crossing.  It was pretty awesome. 

So, it's on, my friends. Last big long run is in the books:

Let the taper BEGIN!!!

For those that don't know what that means, I'll explain.

Tapering refers to the practice of reducing, or tapering off, exercise in the days just before an important competition (I heart Wikipedia).  Shorter distances require no more than several days to a week.  However, for a marathon, we're talking a period of two or three weeks.  Marathon Monday is on April 18th, which is 21 days from now.  Perfect time to start cutting back.

RunnersWorld has a awesome article that talks about the taper.  You can access it here:,7120,s6-238-244-255-5958-0,00.html

The runner's first reaction to the news that they can reduce their volume after 15-20 weeks of hard training borders on utter jubilation. 

You mean I get to run less and sleep more?  Whoo hoo!

However, that feeling soon gives way to mild anxiety that can evolve into full-blown panic.  Why does this happen?

Because it's completely counterintuitive.  How can I cut back on my training so close to my big race and expect to do well?  Shouldn't I have to work even harder?  In "Lore of Running", by Tim Noakes, the importance of tapering is explained:

"This is necessary to allow full recovery of the shock-absorbing capacity of the trained muscles.  Recovery of this function becomes important beyond the marathon wall.  In contrast, too much rest before a shorter distance race may cause you to lose the leg speed necessary for optimum performance in races of up to 21 km.  But in the marathon, inadequate recovery of the shock-absorbing function of the muscles will have a more marked effect on your performance.  Perhaps the brain must also be adequately rested to ensure that it can continue to recruit the muscles appropriately once the pain of the marathon becomes increasingly severe." -- Page 621

In this day and age, you'd be hard pressed to find a coach or a training program that doesn't advocate tapering.  Scientific studies confirm that it does produce a dramatic improvement in performance. 

Ah, good then.  I'll rest.

Oh, but it's not that easy!

Have you ever heard the term, "idle hands are the devil's workshop"?  The less time you spend training, the more time you have to think about the fact that you're not training. 

And the more time you have to think about the fact that you're not training, the more time you have to invent all kinds of aches, pains and afflictions. 

And the more time you have to invent all kinds of aches, pains and afflictions, the more time you have to second-guess yourself.

And, the more time you have to second-guess yourself...

I think you get the point.  If this is resonating with anyone, know that you're not alone.

The best thing that runners, particularly first-time marathoners, can do right now is simply relax and focus their energy and attention on enjoying the extra free time, knowing that they have built a strong foundation and that the bulk of the "work" is done.  Your thoughts are just your thoughts and you don't have to latch on to every single one of them.  Flood your mind with positive reinforcement ONLY.  If you'd like additional reassurance, talk to other people who have run one or more marathons.  The camaraderie in our sport is pretty incredible.  Runners love to help other runners.  Take advantage of that. 

Finally, it has been said that, "The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare".  Perhaps we can throw "and taper" in there as a post-script.

We've trained.  Now we taper.  And we trust.


1 comment:

  1. I'M SO EXCITED FOR TAPER!! It's hard to trust, but I know it will be a great race if I taper properly!