I made what I thought was an interesting determination last night,and I hope I can articulate it well enough to be understood. So bear with me. Here goes.
I’m not in what appears to be the ‘general’ camp about tapering. The general camp seems to be most people and seems to be a complete frustration at the comparative inactivity during taper time.
I on the contrary, LOVE the lesser mileage and the resting of the body to let the last stiff muscles and niggles dissipate before the big raceday effort. So when I’ve heard other runners moan that they don’t know what to do with themselves, I’ve loved being able to utilise the extra hours in other areas of life I enjoy with no feelings of anxiety or frustration.
But during last night’s short 1-hour run, I had an interesting realisation about what I do dislike intensely about tapering. And basically, that is how my mind has me unnecessarily questioning whether I feel fit and capable during a short run. As I approached one of the ‘significant’ hills in my neighbourhood, I felt a slight sense of foreboding at the impending climb. Why, I asked myself? It was only a one hour run in total and I’d run that hill and equivalent hills hundreds of times during training this year.
I even questioned how my body was feeling when up until that exact moment when I’d first consciously thought of the hill, I had felt great and was moving nicely. And then it dawned on me. If I were doing a 3-hour run, which contained 6 hills of that difficulty spread over the course, and I were reaching that first sizeable hill 20 minutes into the first hour (the exact position I was reaching it during this solitary hour), I wouldn’t even be thinking about the first hill.
I know that in a much longer run, I couldn’t afford to heap undue thought on the very first hill. I would just bosh it out and probably think “one out of six – DONE” at the top. It would only be towards the latter stages of a 3-hour run – maybe the last hour – that I would start dreading the last hill.
In dwelling on it, it was a very similar thought I had when I finished my first Two Oceans Marathon in 2012 (before my first Comrades). I was incredibly chuffed to have completed my longest run till that date, but the thought that if I were running Comrades I would have to run a further 31-32 kilometres was just too much to contemplate. And yet, when you run Comrades, you don’t really afford yourself the luxury of thinking of the finish, until you get to about 70 – 75 kilometres.
Up until then, your brain seems to kind of automatically break both the distance and expected time-to-complete-it up into segments and it doesn’t allow itself to get excited at the completion of what would normally be a great achievement in distance.
It’s always amazed me. Normally a half-marathon, even for seasoned runners is a decent distance to complete. And yet, when you’re running a marathon, you don’t think much at all of completing the 21km. And so it is on any run.
So what I dislike intensely about the taper, is that you start to question your fitness and readiness during pathetically short runs when a week or two before, you wouldn’t have even thought about how you feel until you’re 1.5 – 2 hours into a 3 hour run.
So despite the minds amazing ability to reset itself for different timespans, it can play horrible tricks on you during shorter bread-and-butter runs.
And yet I know that next Sunday, 10, 20, 30, 60, 70 kilometres will pass by before my mind starts to really kick into overdrive in terms of questioning whether we can finish the last 20. OR I hope it works like that.
We wait and see. Till then, I plan to enjoy the relative inactivity and not dwell too much on doubts felt during the last 3 / 4 pathetically short runs between now and then.
Can you relate?