Despite the best efforts of a tree root in tripping me up and a bus driver in trying to run me over, I made it round my final 20-mile run on Sunday. Now mileage starts to wind down as I slide down the slipppery slope of the tapering with nothing but a tea-tray that is my fragile self-belief to carry me to the bottom in one piece.
Tapering SHOULD be the fun bit of marathon training: less miles, the excitement of the big day getting closer, carb loading. But it doesn’t work like that and that’s all because the human brain is a complex and mysterious pain in the arse. It will lie to you, it will play tricks on you and it will make you act a little bit crazy.
The problem with tapering is that you’ve done all the hard work and yet you still know that you might not make it to the start line – and even if you do, you might screw up. Every ache and pain will, in your taper-addled mind, become the beginnings of a catastrophic injury – from a stress fracture to gangrene, my brain has convinced me I had it.
You probably sneeze once a day on your normal life. But tapering your SOB brain will try to tell you that that sneeze you just did, that one right there when you shook some pepper on your lunch, was definitely the beginning of pneumonia and that all hopes of ever running a marathon ever agin are off. And God help your colleagues, friends or fellow commuters if they even dare to sneeze within 10 feet of you. This is where you’ll find yourself acting 50 different types of crazy.
After 14 weeks or more of running A LOT, your body may be pleased of the rest but your brain will find this odd. This is because your brain is a dick. It will tel you that you’re getting fatter, and less fit, it will try to make you run. So what if your training plan that has been designed by the top running coaches in the world or that hundreds of elite athletes use tappering to prepare them for a big race – your brain knows better right? Your brain will tell you to run, this may be the first time that it has willed you to lace up your trainers instead of lying on the sofa, and it will take all your willpower to ignore it.
For the final three weeks of your schedule there is only one thing you need to remember – that voice in your head is a moron. Don’t listen to it. Unless it’s telling you to call your mum – that you should probably do.