Today’s run was a fucking revelation. It was the prize for every step I’ve slogged through, every hour on the treadmill, every run I didn’t feel up for and did it anyway. For the past two weeks or so I’ve been cutting my miles back, in order to give myself a little rest before the big push during the 26.2 miles of the marathon. This is usually referred to as tapering in the running world. Very often when someone tells you they’re tapering, this is quickly followed by a reference to “taper madness”. After weeks of training, and ideally peaking your mileage towards the end of of your training cycle, squeezing miles in around your already busy schedule and then going out for 3-4 hours on the weekends all of a sudden, you’re not doing that. You have weird blocks of free time and you’re supposed to be resting those muscles a bit. This free time increases as the specter of the marathon comes closer.
This is not a formula conducive to maintaining one’s sanity. You begin to wish you had a hobby. One of course, which you’d probably have to drop during your next training cycle, so… you see the problem. For me with this free time, inevitably I end up reading more which is nice. However, I also seem to veer towards reading books about running, which makes me want to run, which I’m not supposed to do. This pisses me off and just fuels the fire of my already shit mood. For anyone who has had to deal with me on any kind of personal level for the past two week, allow me to offer my apologies now. Clearly all the blame lies on the taper.
With the Richmond marathon just a week away I realized on Friday that my running plan for this week probably had me logging too many miles. At the last minute I had to rethink my training for the weekend which lead me to shorten my last long run and skip another run entirely. This also didn’t make me feel particularly good. I was planning to do my long run on Saturday but was feeling kind of tired, so I pushed it off until today. Today’s run confirmed that this was the best decision. It took me about a mile and a half to warm up but once I did I found myself running faster than I typically do. I’m a slow runner. I enjoy the distance and try not to beat myself up for logging 12 minute miles. But today, I watched my Garmin report my time and I was shocked when I saw numbers that indicated I was running miles in the 9 or even 8 minute range. I maintained this for about 4.5 miles of my 6.5 mile run. For me this is race pace – like short race pace for a 5k or 10k. While I don’t expect to be able to run the entire marathon like this, it does make me feel confident that can pull down a better time than my lackluster 5:13 at Pittsburgh this past May.
I felt like a million bucks this morning, dodging strollers, and racing through intersections just before the light turned. It felt better, really than any monetary figure I can pin on it because I was running. This was no jog, no training run, no run just to get those miles logged. It was a beautiful thing.
So, I believe in the taper. I believe that sometimes you need to feel like you’re going backwards in order to make progress. I believe that I will rock the house during the Richmond marathon, because really, when you’re running you’re biggest challenger is yourself. Oh, and I also believe in getting new running socks a week prior to the race! So, I’m ready Richmond! See you next weekend!