Ah the marathon taper. After weeks and weeks of pounding out the long miles, promising yourself that it will soon be time to taper and have a rest, along come the marathon demons to mess with your head and make you a little crazy. Here are some of the main signs that taper madness is setting in:
You either get, or convince yourself you are getting, the cold/flu/plague
The taper means race day is near and the last thing you want is to be ill after all that hard training, but cutting back on the miles seems to be some kind of secret Bat Signal to your body that now would be a good time to let the germs in. In my case, I got the cold IMMEDIATELY I began my taper for the Loch Ness marathon. Thankfully that gave me plenty of time to
wallow in self pity shake it off and bounce back before the race. And even if you don’t actually get ill, it seems like everyone around you is coughing and sneezing, leading to some major paranoia! Is my throat sore? Does that sneeze mean I’m getting the cold? I’m sure that’s a cough coming on…
Hand sanitiser becomes your best friend
Because of the above issues with a world of coughing, sneezing people, you take evasive action, one of the main ones being a paranoid overuse of hand sanitiser. Mine sits on my desk, in my bag, in my glove compartment… In theory I should never be more than a slight stretch away from my bottle, so that I can use it whenever I need to – and that’s A LOT: after handshakes, before eating, during lessons (those pesky young people are FULL of germs!). Good thing I stocked up on my favourite Pocket Bacs when I was on holiday!
You develop phantom aches and pains
Does my calf hurt? Is that a twinge in my hamstring? Somehow running less leads to all manner of niggly aches and pains that have not once bothered you during training putting in an unwelcome appearance. These are generally your body playing cruel tricks on your paranoid mind and not evidence that you have developed a stress fracture overnight/broken your leg whilst sitting in your chair/will need urgent amputation! Unless something is actually affecting how you move, chances are it’s a figment of your (overactive) imagination!
You develop a keen interest in meteorology
Let’s face it, most of the time we really only check the weather forecast to help us decide what to wear, or see if we need a coat, umbrella or accessories like a pair of gloves. But as marathon day approaches we practically become amateur meteorologists as we frantically refresh weather feeds and try to work out if we’re going to get those perfect conditions we’ve been dreaming of or if Mother Nature is going to throw a spanner in the works. Right now it’s just slightly too early for me to get a detailed forecast for the weekend on my weather app (yes, I have checked!) but I’m crossing my fingers for it being a dry, sunny day with temps around 12C. You can only control so much, and sadly the weather isn’t on the list. Prepare your kit (with options for any changes, especially if you’re travelling away from home) and be ready to adapt. Obsessively checking the forecast won’t change it!
You begin to doubt yourself
Despite weeks of training, 20 mile runs and possibly some PBs along the way, those little doubts do tend to creep in. It’s perfectly natural, especially for those doing their first marathon, but sometimes you need to put things in perspective. I try to remind myself that it’s “just” another run, and I do those every week. I’ve run the distance before so there’s no reason I won’t be able to do so again. Yes, it’s a long way, but if you’ve put in the training you should be absolutely fine. Trust your training, and remember you chose to do this – it’s supposed to be fun!
You desperately want to run
The purpose of the taper is to capitalise on all those weeks of training and conditioning by conserving energy so that you’re ready to go on race day. But now that you have permission to run a bit less (the one thing you’ve been dreaming of for a few weeks, right?), going for a super long run seems to be the ONLY thing you want to do. It’s normal to feel like this, but by this stage in your training going for a really long run will be counter-productive. Enjoy the runs you have in your training, but stick to your plan of shorter distances. And don’t fill the extra time you’ve created with mammoth DIY tasks or whole scale spring cleaning – keep that energy for your race!
You become a bottomless pit
The runger is real, and as your mileage has increased, so has your appetite. You would think that cutting back on your mileage would mean you’re less hungry, yet your body wants just as much fuel as ever, if not more. Remember, you do need to stockpile energy for your race, but don’t go overboard. Stick to whatever you’ve been eating up to now and don’t overindulge in fast food and empty calories. Your body is a finely tuned machine and it deserves the best, so save that treat meal or fast food for afterwards.
So if you know someone exhibiting these maranoia-induced symptoms, go easy on them. There’s only one known cure and that’s actually running the marathon. Until that day comes around, just keep your distance (germs!) make sure you have plenty of hand soap/sanitiser and keep the food coming!
Do you get plagued by the taper demons?
What else would you add to the list?