The Marathon Diaries: Tapering (During a Hurricane!) Is Hard

Annie is in full-on taper mode now, with the Philadelphia Marathon just 19 days away. But instead of celebrating her weeks of fewer miles, she's starting to feel antsy.

When I first printed out my training plan for the Philadelphia Marathon in July, it looked daunting. I knew I could do it because I had done it before, but when you plan out the next few months of your life in terms of mileage, it’s a bit overwhelming. When all is said and done, I will have covered approximately 420.2 miles in 16 weeks.

This past Saturday, I completed my final training long run: 18 glorious miles (I did 20 the week before) around Kelly Drive. I couldn’t help but think “THANK GOD THIS IS OVER!” as I made my way back to my apartment. Obviously I’m not going to stop running, but now it’s time to taper. (For the uninitiated, that means cutting down the mileage to keep your legs fresh.) It was great thinking about how I wouldn’t have to dedicate half a day to a run anymore or how I could do more of my weekday runs in the mornings because they wouldn’t hit the double digits anymore. Sweet freedom!

Fast forward to Monday, October 29th at 7:30 p.m. I’ve been cooped up in my apartment all day thanks to Hurricane Sandy. Cookies have been baked, the house has been cleaned, movies have been purchased. I am not good at sitting around and doing nothing, and all I want to do is go for a run. Obviously, I’m not planning on running in this storm, but I know that as soon as it’s safe to head out again, I’ll be hitting the pavement. Question is, will four short runs a week be enough to keep me satisfied until race day?

Probably not, but at least I’m not the only one. I just received a text from fellow marathoner Maggie, who said, “I haven’t run in two days and I feel weird.”  Even my blog crush and super runner Ali Fuller, who is training for the NYC marathon this weekend, thinks tapering is boring. It’s amazing to me how we’ve managed to complain about how many miles we’re supposed to run and how many hours it’ll take to do it, but as soon as someone tells us to stop, we bitch about it. I think that means we’re officially marathoners.

Thankfully, Runner’s World (as usual) has some tips for marathoners struggling with the taper. They warn of “taper tantrums” when your body seems to develop various aches and pains that are enough to send anyone into a “MY RACE IS DOOMED!” panic. That’s usually just a sign of withdrawal.  Seriously. You might actually be addicted enough to running to experience withdrawal.

The best piece of advice they offer is to resist the urge to cram in the weeks leading up to a marathon. Just like cramming for a test, adding in extra miles or speedwork this close to the marathon will not help you. If you’ve done your training, you’re ready for the race. Don’t push yourself too hard.

They also warn about putting too much pressure on yourself when you think about your goal pace for the upcoming race. As those of you who read my first post know, my goal time for the marathon is 5:30. Articulating that goal on this blog has been a struggle for me because it’s much slower than most runners’ goals, and I’m honestly not sure if I’ll make it.

Confession: During my 20-miler two weeks ago, I had a mini-freakout. I wasn’t keeping the pace and kept thinking, “Well, I’m definitely going to fail.”  NOT helpful. My 18-miler went much more smoothly, and I was much closer to my marathon pace. That means I’m going into the race with greater confidence than if my 20-miler was my last long run. In order to keep that confidence, Runner’s World suggests throwing in a few marathon goal-pace miles during some of my taper runs. This will reinforce that I am able to hold that pace and remind me that I wasn’t completely insane when I made the goal.

It’s crazy that this training is slowly coming to an end.  The marathon felt light years away when this journey began, but now the marathon is in 19 (!!) short days. It’s definitely time to trust the training.

How are you guys handling the taper?  Ready for the big day? Share in the comments.


Annie Acri is an administrative assistant at the Drexel University College of Medicine and is working toward her master’s of communication degree. The 2012 Philadelphia Marathon will be her second marathon. Follow along every Tuesday as Annie posts about the ups and downs of training as she prepares for the big race on November 18th. Catch up on the series here.

Photo: Shutterstock