What is a taper? Well, it’s a thin candle. Or a feeble source of light. Or a person who edits magnetic tape. None of which are particularly relevant to marathon training. But, putting nouns aside, the verb ‘to taper’ refers to, amongst other things, the reduction of exercise before a race and/or longer run. I was sold on this immediately: ‘Wait…less running? I’m in!’ So, with the Yorkshire Marathon less than a fortnight away *clutches chest* I’ve completed my last ridiculously long training run in anticipation of the big day, and now we play the waiting game. Although as Homer Simpson once said, ‘the waiting game sucks, let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos’.
I think now is a good time to reflect on how training has gone, what with the last long ‘un behind me and with the marathon looming on the horizon like a bird of ill omen. I mean, erm, like something I’m really looking forward to…MARATHON WOO YEAH! Still, it begs the question – which species of bird is the bird of ill omen? Budgerigar? Pigeon? Half-arsed Internet research indicates it’s the Raven. ‘After all, the old collective noun for a group of ravens is an ‘unkindness’’. Really? Not quite as evil as a murder of crows, then. Rather than kill you they’ll merely shit on your clean washing to put a dampener on your morning.
Anyway, enough of these feathery, hate-filled distractions. Back to marathon training. Let’s evaluate:
What’s gone well?
1) My marathon plan may have been a panicked, clumsily mashed-together hybrid of other, better and well thought-out marathon plans, but at least I stuck to it for the full 20 weeks. Which means I managed to avoid the scenario, similar to when studying for an exam, where I spent my time procrastinating and worrying about all the running/revision I hadn’t done instead of actually doing some running/revision.
2) On the whole, I’ve paced the long runs out properly and I know, albeit theoretically, what I need to do if I’m going to bag that elusive sub-4 hour finish. Preparation, that’s the key. That and divine inspiration. I’m surely owed some. And after all, if some deity was running a marathon (what?) and I held all of the cards (what cards?) I’d throw him/her/it/them a bone (what bone?)…let’s move on…
3) I’ve seen a pleasing improvement in my half-marathon running, shaving a few minutes off my PB in recent weeks whilst feeling pretty good. This good for morale, and, as the marathon is a mental battle. A mental, mental battle. And it could prove key in the ongoing battle with the pessimistic inner-monologue.
4) I have a better understanding of the challenge to come *clutches chest*
5) I’m feeling pretty fit and healthy *contracts bubonic plague*
6) I’m injury free *gets hit by a falling anvil*
What’s gone not so well?
1) I can’t deny it, when I get to around 18-20 miles I hit a wall. Not a literal wall owing to a poorly-planned route you understand – although I did collide with a lamp-post a few weeks back – but a figurative wall. The worst type of wall.
2) Long runs are still hard and soul-crushingly boring. I’ve definitely not clicked into enjoying anything over half-marathon distance, as I fill with both lactic acid and resentment as to the amount of time I’m having to spend trudging around the same old stupid, boring routes. Bah.
3) Now, everyone runs their own race. I understand that. But listening to some other folk describe their marathon experiences just leaves me with a sense of bewilderment. I mean, I’m all for post-marathon tones of defiant victory, but some runner’s accounts contain the type of lexicon usually reserved for chronicling an intimate sexual experience. Even vigorous application of the pre-run Vaseline can’t account for that. I’m definitely going wrong somewhere.
4) I’m still largely convinced I can’t actually run a sub-4 hour marathon
5) And there’s still always the fear that I might collapse and require emergency medical assistance
6) Or that I might poo myself. Come on, we’ve all read the horror stories. And then there’s (click the following link at your own peril…in fact, no, don’t click it) that picture.
I told you not to click it.
On the assumption that I survive the marathon in tact (whilst acknowledging the wise words of Everett McGill – uttered during the modern masterpiece Under Siege 2: Dark Territory – who concludes that ‘assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups’) I’ve also given some thought as to what happens afterwards. And I mean beyond collapsing in a heap, devouring a Mars Bar in record time and having a bit of a cry.
The temptation will of course be to grant myself a week or so off the running, post-marathon. But this is not wise. Experience has taught me that ‘a week off the running’ can become weeks. And then a couple of months. And before you know it, it’s Christmas and there’s no point even bothering until the New Year. And then it’s cold and dark. And the duvet is soft and warm. Urgh, stupid running.
So, to avoid such predictable fate I’ve pencilled in a 10k race for November, meaning I’m forced to keep getting out there. Ah, a hobby where you have to force yourself to do it begrudgingly. Good times. Plus I’m down to do another virtual run medal deely in December. Then there’s the Brass Monkey Half Marathon is in January. Very much like The Terminator, I absolutely will not stop. So it seems. Still, as acknowledged I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s still the small matter of the ol’ 26.2 to conquer first. Aieeeeeeeeeeeee…