You’ve been training for months. Race day is just around the corner and the only thing standing in your way from finish-line glory is a taper. For those of you unfamiliar with what a “taper” is, Meriam-Webster defines it as “a gradual decrease.” Essentially, you are decreasing the amount of running you have been doing just before race day, generally a couple of weeks before.
What is Taper Madness?
Every weekend you have been waking up early to get in your long run. Most likely, that meant taking care of yourself the day before, so there went your Friday nights. Running has been your sanctuary and your constant for months and now you have to cut back. Sounds easy, right? Not so much. For us runners, we WANT to run. We WANT to go on a 2-hour run because that is what we do and that is what makes us feel “normal.”
It sounds great right away. You have been working hard and the idea of bringing it down a notch is just what your body (and mind) needs. But then a few days go by… then that second week comes up. Your legs start feeling stronger, and you get this itch to want to go out and run… and run far, BUT YOU CAN’T. See, that’s the point of the taper. Yes, you are still getting in some runs, but they are essentially short-to-middle distance runs to keep your strength up, but also allow your body the time it needs to recover from months of training. THIS is what brings you to the start line feeling 100% and ready to race. However, THIS is also what drives runners to taper madness — the inability to go out and RUN the way we want to. We have that desire to race, we just have to wait.
3 ways to get through taper madness
Catch up on your reading.
You can go about this in a couple of ways: You can kick it old school and bust out a book, or you can visit some of your favorite blogs to read about race day experiences.
The book route. There are so many great running books out there. You might not be able to run the distance you want, but you can soak up some inspiration from reading about how the elites train and race. It’s a great way to feel that sensation of running without actually doing it. You’ll find yourself motivated, inspired, and ready for when race day comes around.
The blog route. Social media is an amazing tool. You now have access to numerous runners who have most likely run the race you are training for or have run a similar one (uphill, downhill, trail, road). Ping your social community and take a look at their previous race recap for insight on what to look out for on race day. Maybe there is an unexpected hill at mile X, or a tip on how to manage parking on race morning. Try to get rid of the unexpected by utilizing the community — runners love to help runners.
Do a marathon.
Not that kind… the kind all your non-running friends have been doing: the TV kind. You know you’ve always wanted to watch Dexter/Breaking Bad/Downton Abbey/Six Feet Under/LOST/Sopranos — now is the time to do it. You don’t want to spend 6-hours a day on the couch, but you can easily kill an hour or so watching some TV, and more importantly, staying off your feet. Throw on some compression socks, put your feet up and catch up on all the TV you’ve missed from your training schedule.
That’s right, you are supposed to run during the taper. You can’t completely stop training, that’s not what a taper is all about. You need to go out and maintain the level of fitness your body (and mind) has become used to, you just have to pull it back a bit. You should still be running a several times a week, possibly working in some intervals, but getting out there and reminding your legs what they are getting ready for on race day. Nothing intense, nothing that requires you to recover, but get outside (or on a treadmill) and enjoy a run… after all, you have to perfect that finish line smile for race day.
How do you deal with taper madness?