Taper tantrums

Posted on: 27 Mar 2017

I read a great article the other week about ‘taper madness’ as a phenomenon and I can relate to pretty much everything it said.

Your mind and body find it hilarious to play all sorts of nasty tricks on you as you start to wind the miles back.  For some reason they think it’s a scream to make you imagine the last 15 weeks of hard graft are for nothing and you’re going to end up spending race day ill, injured or probably both.

For my part some of the anxiety is just no doubt taper nonsense, but to be fair I am genuinely worried about how well my troublesome thigh muscle is going to hold up for race day. 

You may recall I pulled it earlier in training at around week 10.  Well pushing myself at the Stafford half a couple of weeks ago has presumably aggravated it again, only this time it’s lingering for longer and hurting quite a bit more. 

I didn’t notice anything until the day after the race, but by the evening it had flared up.  Not constant, but a short, sharp burn whenever I stretched or bent down.  It has eased off as the week has progressed, but it’s still there.  As I type it’s more a regular dull ache than a shooting pain – so progress of a kind, he says with his glass on the half full side of the spectrum!

My first reaction was to be angry with myself.  I’d basically got carried away and gone all guns blazing for a half marathon PB two weeks before the main event – in hindsight, very stupid.  Which event have I been training for after all?  How many times do people have to tell me that long runs are supposed to be slower than target marathon pace?

The second response was to debate what I should do about training for the week ahead.  I’m tapering, but there were still 20 miles to run over four days.  Do I stop completely and rest?  I decided to carry on, mainly because I needed to know if this was going to affect my running.  If so, at least I can be ready for a fight at Manchester.

Bizarrely I have barely felt a thing whilst out on the road.  Twinges before and after, but during a run – next to nothing.  That includes an eight miler on the Sunday just gone, which was pretty much my last chance to practice pacing those early marathon miles in the high 8s and low 9s. 

So I’m cautiously optimistic that come the weekend I’ll either be healed or at least not too badly affected during the marathon.  And I just have to prepare myself mentally that there could be a battle ahead in the later parts of the race.

Muscle dramas aside, everything else is on track.  I’ve starting planning my diet for the week with regular carb loading.  I don’t do this in a particularly scientific way, however common sense is usually enough to do something meaningful but without getting carried away.  It also gives me an excuse to get in the kitchen which is actually something I enjoy.

Minimal running this week too, only 2x 5k runs and then a two mile gentle jog or walk either on Friday or Saturday to stay loose.  I’ll do my utmost to resist the temptation to run fast and having been here twice before I know how difficult that can be.  Your body is accustomed to running three or four times more mileage during a week, plus you’re pre-loading yourself with fuel that your legs become desperate to burn off.

But don’t, save it for the big day when you’ll need every ounce of strength and stamina that you can muster.  It’s very nearly marathon time when all that hard work, and taper madness, will ultimately pay off.


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