My bags are packed, my animals have been delivered into the care of trusted friends, my plants have been generously watered and my travel documents have been checked and double checked. Tomorrow I will board the plane to Athens and begin my much-needed ten day vacation on the Aegean shores. Oh, and then there’s that little excursion to Marathon on Sunday morning.
I’m 5 days away from running my first marathon, and I feel like a child who is counting down the days until Christmas… Someone once said that the marathon race itself is a runner’s lap of honour to celebrate all the hard training, which is a great way of looking at it I think.
During my taper, I had plenty of time to reflect upon my training. I hope I don’t sound arrogant when I say that this has gone a long way to soothing my pre-race nerves. For one, my training has gone genuinely well – I’ve hit all my weekly targets, while remaining flexible and sensible during individual runs. Tallying up the total number of kilometres I’ve run in training over the past 16 weeks, I realised that this number will cross into four figure territory during the marathon on Sunday. Regardless of what happens on Sunday, it won’t change the fact that for the first time in my life I have run 1000km in four months!
I’ve even been uncharacteristically well behaved during the taper itself (so far!). Only once did I run significantly longer than I should have done and I didn’t sneak in any extra runs or naughty cross training. Bashing out two tempo runs on consecutive days was the only genuine act of idiocy I own up to.
I’m fairly certain that this act of self-restraint was only possible because I kept myself occupied with other marathon-related tasks during the taper. My mp3 player is now loaded with a carefully assembled marathon soundtrack. My poor muscles have been stretched and stretched some more. The sports massages were amazing and I’ve discovered foam rolling (seriously, it’s something else!). Finally, I think my podiatric tlc might have rescued a toenail I had already written off long ago.
So now there’s not much left to do but to get on that plane and keep counting down the days until I get to run my lap of honour!
I’m not going to beat around the bush here: I’m no good at tapering. Give me any training plan and I’ll hammer out the tough workouts with cheerful obedience. However, tell me to slow down and put my feet up and I not only lose that focus, but come dangerously close to losing the plot altogether. The closer I get to the actual race, the more I feel like I should be doing something (specifically, running hard); slowing down, on the other hand, feels as foreign, foolish and repulsive as eating fried insects on a stick.
My first marathon is now only fifteen days away, which places me squarely into the danger zone of metaphorical insect eating. I realised with horror that yesterday’s trail run was the last of my beloved mid-week 10km workouts. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the necessity of the dreaded taper: it’s when you funnel all that great training into a bottle, cork it up and spend three weeks shaking it with beastial vigour, only to pop the cork in unison with the sound of the start gun and explode onto the race course. Thankfully, I have plenty of training under my belt which is ready for the bottle; I don’t intend to throw 14 weeks of lovely running into the bottomless pit of idiocy by failing to slow down now.
Instead of just sitting around and chomping on my fingernails, I am going to direct all that antsy energy at the many marathon related tasks which I have been neglecting:
- Put some effort into dropping some serious hints in the vicinity of my partner in the hope that he will arrange an indulgent spa day for me after the race – one can always hope!
- In the meantime, I should really stretch a little more and sign up for a sports massage or two.
- My feet – toenails in particular – are screaming out for some love after the many weeks of abuse. I shall heed their call.
- The pants dilemma still needs to be solved – that is, I need to decide which shorts to wear for the marathon (a recent 20 miler has revealed a disastrous chafing flaw in my favourite Nike racing shorts).
- My newly acquired mp3 player needs to be filled with the tunes that shall ring in my ears for 26.2 miles. This is serious stuff.
- I will investigate just how much chocolate can be consumed in taper times, by means of a personal case study.
- Crucially, I still need to finalise the preparations for my trip to Marathon (as in, I’ll be starting my first marathon in Marathon, to run THE marathon from Marathon to Athens).
- I need to stock up on porridge and Vaseline.
- Perhaps most importantly, I still need to figure out what in the name of Pheidippides I want to achieve during the actual race (besides not dying).
Suddenly, fifteen days don’t sound like much time at all. Now that I have a clear chart to navigate the taper-territory (and chocolate!), I hope that my voyage across these treacherous waters will be much smoother than I had initially feared.