Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Beware the marathon taper!

  It was pleasing to get a call from Sally M. last night to share today's run of 8.5 miles (see earlier blog on the "pocket rocket")  Having completed 6 months of preparation for the London Marathon (week on Sunday) including several runs at 20 miles, several at 22 and 24, she is now enjoying a well deserved two weeks tapering before the main event.   There is nothing she can do now in terms of long runs or speed work to enhance her London performance.  So this morning was a very leisurely pace for both of us and as always the converstaion flowed and miles passed swiftly by.
  What she and other serious competitors have to ensure is that they do not divert the extra time and energy available as the miles are cut down to engage in physical activites such as gardening,  spring cleaning,  painting and decorating etc.  Activities which can undo the months focussing on the main aim. No during this tapering period only mistakes can be made........see below!!!
  24 of my 26 marathons were completed when I was self employed and I welcomed this extra time during pre-marathon tapering to catch up with paper work or projects set aside when training up to 90 miles per week.  This would have been genrally reduced by a third in the penultimate week with a 4 x mile session on the Thursday.   A short Friday run would be followed by a couple of 7s at the weekend then nothing more than 4 in marathon week.  The hope after the 10 days of simply easy running was that by race day I would feel like the proverbial "caged tiger", a rejuvenated beast ready to be unleashed over 26.2 miles.
  Mistakes?  Looking today in my 1988 diary to examine the taper for the Blackpool Marathon of that year I referred to yesterday I was somewhat surprised  to read that this was one marathon when I deviated from any prescribed taper you might read. 
  This was a time when Pat and I travelled to races manning THE COMPLETE RUNNER mobile sales van
and I had arranged to sell at the Golden Square half marathon in Warrington, Cheshire.   My usual plan was to sell at the event but also race in it.  Problem was the event was on the Thursday night just 10 days before the Blackpool marathon.  I can't recall any particular major decision making on the night about the wisdom of racing the half marathon but I certainly recall it being a very warm, humid evening and being feeling pretty sickly having tried to refuel with a Chinese meal at about 10 p.m.  I had finished 3rd in the race in 72.57 and the effort had taken its toll!
  The 9 remaining days showed runs of 4...5...6...4...5...4...2.5...rest (Friday)...by which time the energy was coming back and I ran an easy 6 on the promenade at Blackpool the Saturday before the race!   Race day produced strong breezes and high temperatures. I came off the leading group at half way and ran a solitary second half finishing  in 2:36.   A time which would have won last Sunday's event but good enough for only 12th back in 1988.
  The half marathon time from the Thursday 10 days prior suggests that I would probably have run 2 or 3 minutes faster but I would have only gone up 2 or 3 places in the marathon.   Having said that if I had had a coach I'm sure I wouldn't have toed the line for that Warrington half just ten days prior and perhaps the Blackpool would have been a more comfortable run.  As they say all part of life's rich tapestry........
  No, marathoners, enjoy your taper. Don't get involved in other physical pursuits which might cause injury.
Read that novel you've set aside, catch up and tidy up your inbox, see that film you've read about especially in the last 7 days. Don't fall at the last hurdle! 

1 comment:

  1. Wise words, Terence, but ones that sadly don't allow for the existence of "The List" - last Saturday, the day before Blackpool Marathon (2010 vintage) I declined a 10m walk with the family due to the following day's effort, and was instead presented with "The List" of jobs to do, including raking over the vegetable patch. There's times when a man's got to do etc...

    Good luck to Sal and other London marathoners - sure she'll nail it