There are a lot of marathoners out there who lament the taper.
The period of time before a race where the athlete cuts back their mileage and begins the process of allowing the body which has been taxed near its limits during training to repair itself.
As 8 mile runs become 4 miles, and 18 or 20 mile long runs are now only 10 miles, athletes start to have idle time and idle minds to fixate on things.
Instead of embracing the taper and realizing that it is a crucial part of marathon training, one that will help the athlete run to the best of their abilities and fitness levels on race day, they instead stress out.
They let their minds wander and worry. Question their training and their fitness. Wonder if they are losing the level of fitness they worked so hard to achieve over the previous 16-18 weeks.
Perhaps they should just go out for one more really hard workout. One that will make them KNOW that they are ready.
Guess what? It doesn’t work.
There is not a single workout that can be done within 14 days of the race that will improve your level of fitness for race day.
Not a single one.
You are in a mode where you can either maintain your fitness level or you can harm it. But you cannot improve it. Fact.
The taper period is designed to allow you to run just enough to stay sharp, with just enough up-tempo work – a mile here, two miles there – to remind your body that you are preparing to RACE, not simply run a race.
But the workload is lightened, recovery is more balanced and your body checks itself into the shop for a tune-up and an overhaul. It’s like getting new spark plugs, a lube job and a fresh set of tires.
The engine is the same – but the car is going to simply run better. Run faster.
I have come to enjoy the taper over the years. My first few times around the block I was like a lot of runners. I hated the taper. I just wanted to race already.
Three weeks was too long for me, so I changed things up for NYC and went with a two-week taper, running my final 20-miler two weeks before race day.
In the case of Boston being run on a Monday, it was in fact 15 days before.
These next two weeks are critical as I start to peak for race day. I will still run on my usual run days, but I will run shorter. I will keep the rhythm that I have built up over these last 20 weeks, but will instead run easy during the early parts of my runs, gradually increasing effort and finish with a couple of miles at Marathon goal pace.
This will keep my legs “alive”, but allow for the freshening process to occur.
Sure the nerves will build starting next week. Each day will become one day closer to “Boston”. I will start packing next Wednesday, check the weather forecasts several times a day. Fly on Friday, hit the expo on Saturday and spend Sunday nervously counting the hours until it is time for my pre-race dinner.
I won’t sleep much on Sunday night, thinking about the course, the weather, my pace strategy and the Newton Hills. Those damn Newton Hills.
A bus ride out to Hopkinton, Breakfast in the athletes village behind the Local High School, timing my porta-potty break(s) and amaze myself at how I can possibly have to go to the bathroom 5 or 6 times in two hours while I can fly from Houston to New York and not have to go more than once.
But when the air force fighter planes fly overhead and the horn sounds I will be in my element. Everything will go to black.
I will be a marathoner running in the greatest marathon in the world.
My feet will feel like they are hardly touching the ground when I run across the painted starting line on Main Street. 26.2 miles later will be another line painted on Boylston, the only difference will be the word FINISH.
It’s what happens in the middle of those two lines that matters.
The taper? Nothing at all to fear.
10 days to go. We’re just about perfect.