Friday, November 6, 2015

Marathon Update from Dr. Brandon Larkin; "Leave Me Alone, I'm Tapering!" (Race Day is TOMORROW!)

June 20th.  Four and a half months ago.  That’s a long time.  June 20th was the start of the marathon-training season.  That’s 18 weeks.  18 long runs.  18 nearly barf-inducing speed training track workouts.  I don’t know how many miles in total—but a lot.  (You know I actually do know exactly how many miles, and minutes, and calories burned, but I’m not writing that here because it’ll blow my reputation as a low-key, laissez faire type of runner.  And don’t judge me, because I know you all know your data, too.)

But anyway, that’s a long time.  There aren’t many activities in my life that I have spent that many hours working on that didn’t result in some kind of financial gain or earned credit hours or half of a baby.  (Maybe I didn’t do the actual work on that last one, but I was very supportive for at least 7 of the 9 months.)  

There’s usually a reward for that much sustained effort, right?  So what’s the reward for marathon training?  The actual marathon?  Scant days before the event, the race sure doesn’t feel like much in the way of reward potential.  In fact, the butterflies I get just thinking about it threaten to provoke even more barf induction.  My reward for 18 weeks of lifestyle-altering, family-alienating training is that I get to punish myself by running 26.2 miles and having to go down entire flights of stairs backwards for two days afterward?  How can an activity serve as a reward if I have to write the mile markers of every Johnny-on-the-Spot on the course to successfully and hygienically complete it?  It feels wrong somehow.

I’m sure I’m in the minority among seasoned distance runners, but I think a little bit of the reward for the long hours and monotony of training is the taper.  Yes, the dreaded taper.  Most of my counterparts utter those two syllables with a long sigh of disgust.  But honestly, I’ve never understood what’s so bad about it.  The taper is the two weeks of lower mileage and intensity before the race.  It’s the point after the peak in training when you allow your body to recover so you’re as fresh as a daisy when you cross the start line on race day.

Experienced marathoners suffer through these weeks with crankiness and general dislike for other humans.  Because they’re not running 40 miles a week anymore.  And they view that as a bad thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I like running.  But after four months or so, I’m kind of beat down by it.  So don’t tell anybody this, but I welcome the taper.  Because it’s less time for running, and more time for sleeping.  I no longer have to get 8 or 9 miles in before work in the morning.  This morning, I ran for twenty minutes.  Twenty minutes!! And then I was finished!  For the entire day! That’s an hour less than some weekday runs a few weeks ago.  I’ve got so much time on my hands, I’m doing crazy stuff like emptying the dishwasher before work.  And even crazier things like actually getting to work on time.  

So I don’t get the grumbling about the taper.  Seems like a good thing—a reward, even.  That’s my take on it.  There’s my reward.  Doing significantly less of the thing I’ve been voluntarily doing for the last third of a year.  Man, running is weird.

Full disclosure: I know the reward is crossing that finish line.  I’ve felt that swell of emotion before, so I get it.  It’s just that as I get ever closer to race day, I feel like that mountain I’ve been climbing for the last several weeks has been topped, only to reveal another taller mountain.  A 26.2 mile high, snow-capped, imposing mountain right in front of me.  One more mountain to scale to cross that finish line and experience that pride (relief?) that I’ve risen to this challenge.  And as long as there’s a Johnny-on-the-Spot on the mountain every couple of miles or so, I’ll be just fine.