Marathon Taper Madness

Blog, Sue Cloutier

Okay, it’s not madness as much as it is an insane amount of impatience. I just want it to be May 11th already. I’ve done all the workouts (except the one I am putting off right now), and only have easy runs leading up to race day. Marathon day. Ten days from now. Which is longer: the last ten days before your marathon or the last ten days before your due date? I think marathon taper is longer because you know exactly how many days you have left. It is ten days, no sooner. When you’re due to give birth, it could literally be any day. You have the false hope that it could be sooner. Okay, maybe that is worse.

So I guess typical of marathon taper, the doubts are setting in. Did I do enough? Am I strong enough? Yes, I completed *almost* every workout I had on the schedule (minus 2). Yes, every long run went very, very well. Yes, my easy pace has come down so dramatically that I’m sure my chosen marathon pace will be an easy pace to maintain. I have survived, somehow, without getting injured. Or burning out. Or driving my entire family crazy. I have handled my training incredibly well.

So how could I doubt myself? I have a confession. I didn’t do the training plan as it was originally written. When I decided to do the Maine Coast Marathon back in February, I only had 12 weeks to train for it, while the Hansons Marathon Method plan that I decided to use was 18 weeks long. No big deal, just cut out a few of the early weeks leading up to the harder mileage, right? I was able to come in at week 5 of the plan with my next week of training and the mileage lined up perfectly. That still left me with two weeks to cut from the plan. I made the decision to cut the last two weeks of peak mileage, and begin the taper two weeks early. This worked, I rationalized, because I would be cutting one long run of 16 miles (I still had two other 16 milers on the schedule, plus a 15 miler), and I would still peak in the mid-50s for mileage. I would still spend 7 weeks at or around 50 miles, and I would be okay. If I cut another earlier week of the program out, I would have way too dramatic of a mileage increase early on, and would greatly increase my chance of injury. And so I made the cut of peak mileage. I was okay with that, and didn’t think about it much during my training.

And now I’m tapering, and wondering if and how badly I may have screwed myself. Sure, people have successfully completed marathons with only one long run of 16 miles, or less, and on far less cumulative mileage. But that is other people. They are not me. And I want to run this well. My biggest fear, and the reason I put off training for a marathon for two years, was that if I did run a marathon, it would be an arduous, grueling death march past mile 13. And I would hate it. So I put it off until I was fairly confident that I would be able to put in the training required for me to run it well.

Looking back at the choices I made in training – to cut certain weeks out to fit in a decent amount of training; to run damn near every run I was scheduled during the tough 6-day-per-week schedule; to challenge myself with the speed, tempo, and strength workouts; to keep up a somewhat regular strengthening routine; and to push myself during every tough run when my legs were burning with lactic acid, or were almost too heavy with fatigue to lift, or were super tender from shin splints – I feel fairly confident that yes, I can do this, and yes, I can do it well. And how much I enjoy the experience is entirely up to me. I can’t add any additional training (other than the 12 mile marathon tempo I need to do today) from this point on. I just need to continue to hang on, and get to that starting line in ten days. Ugh. Ten whole days.