If you are running London, Blackpool, Madrid or Zurich then there is less than a week now before the big day. Your taper will be well underway. For those with a later spring marathon, your taper might not have started yet and you will still be looking forward to a respite from your gruelling training programme. Those of you in the middle of your taper will know that it’s not quite as simple as that. There is the problem of ‘maranoia’ (pre-marathon mental anxiety characterised by the irrational belief that a last-minute disaster is imminent) to contend with. If this is you – don’t panic! Here are some of our top tips for what to watch out for and how to cope.
Mostly in your head
The pain that has suddenly developed in you calf (or glute or hamstring or any other body part) is unlikely to be a grade III muscle tear or ruptured tendon or stress fracture. Your body has been put under enormous pressure for many months and as soon as you cut back on your training small niggles get a chance to heal – sometimes causing slight pain or discomfort. It is easy to misinterpret or exaggerate these twinges and make them into something they are not. Alternatively it is not uncommon to feel phantom pains as race day nears. Don’t panic – wait a few days to assess the situation. Most of the time these pains will disappear. We have both been convinced of serious injuries before big races with what appeared to be severe pain, only for it to disappear overnight when it was time to race. Maybe it’s a way of your mind forcing your body to rest?
While we are on the subject: the few minor sniffles you have are probably not symptoms of flu or pneumonia either. The immune system is put under pressure by endurance running and certainly there appears to be an increased chance of catching a viral infection in the day or two after a long race, so it is important to keep eating healthily and let your body rest to keep infections at bay.
It’s three weeks since I’ve done a long run
You will not lose fitness because you are no longer running x miles per day or per week. It might be nearly three weeks since you did a long run but your body won’t have forgotten about it. In fact it takes three weeks for the adaptations from long runs to be consolidated in your body – that’s why you have a three week taper. We know how hard it is to accept that more is not better. Trying to do too much at this stage will not help – only hinder. Trust in your training.
What did we do on Sunday mornings before long runs ?
If you have followed a rigorous training program then the last 12 or 16 weeks will have been pretty busy. Fitting training in around a full time job and/or family is not easy, but now that you get to cut back on your training you find that you have spare time on your hands. Don’t be tempted to fill it with running. What about all the things that you didn’t have time to do over the past months? Spend time with family and friends, watch television, go to the cinema – just don’t be tempted to go for an extra run!
It’s good to talk
No one will understand how you feel as you wait anxiously for your first marathon. No one really wants to hear all your concerns – what you have/haven’t done in training, what pace you are planning go out at, which shoes you are going to wear, what you are going to take in your drop bag – except, that is, another marathon runner. We have each other. Find yourself a marathon buddy to talk to, or join an online forum – just try not to test the patience of those around you too much. They have probably had enough of your marathon journey by now and are as eager as you are for it to be over (sorry, I mean successfully completed).
Don’t stress if your final run before your marathon feels awful. The number of times we have said to each other, “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to run tomorrow”. Your body, well stocked with glycogen and hydrated, might feel heavy. You are probably anxious about practical things, getting to the start on time, remembering everything you have to take with you, that minor ache that you felt in your back last night. All this will disappear when you start your race. Have a good one!
Trust in the taper!