The Scribbler

18 September 2010

The last week or taper madness

Filed under: Great North Run,training — The Scribbler @ 15:02
Running vest and number for Great North Run

Race kit at the ready

Part of the preparation for a long distance race is taking it easy in the days or last couple of weeks before race day. The idea is that your training is done. It’s time to give your body time to rest and recover, so you arrive on the start line chomping at the bit.

I’ve been easing down my cross training over the last couple of weeks, dropping classes and weight training, just concentrating on the runs which have been getting steadily longer and longer, until this week, the week before race day. I’ve done two very short runs at a very easy pace. Plenty of stretching. Plenty of early nights. And that’s it.

It feels strange not to train hard. You would think I would be glad of a week taking it relatively easy, but it disrupts my rhythm. And I’ve been craving that great feeling I get from exercising – well it isn’t called an adrenaline high for nothing.

The other thing that happens during taper time, is something runners call taper madness. Symptoms can include feeling every niggle and twinge in your body, wondering if it’s an injury. For me, it included an extra cautiousness. Well, you know how clumsy I am. I have held firmly onto every stair rail going up or down this week. And been giving hard stares at people in the office sneezing or coughing.

But for all your preparation there are aways things you cannot control. I thought it could be the weather. Early forecasts predicted heavy rain for Sunday. Great I thought, I’ve run two of my best races in the rain. But hanging around getting cold and wet at the start and finish is a bit less appealing – especially if you’re a spectator. 

In the end it was that nasty cold bug. On Thursday night I went to bed with a bit of a dry throat and by morning it was positively sore enough to send me to the hot paracetamol drinks and a day off work. Not what I had planned at all. Thankfully, a lie in, a restful day and plenty of fluids seem to have shaken it.

But its a useful lesson. There are things you can control and things you can’t. And you just have to accept that. I have done as much as I can to prepare for this race. I have run, I have rested, I have eaten well. The rest will go how it goes on the day.

As a runner, I know we put pressure on ourselves to perform at any level. Run faster, run further, do better. But really it’s just about the joy and freedom of getting out there and doing it. The runners at the back of the pack have just as much soul, heart and dedication as those at the front – if not more.

I’ve had the privilege of telling my Great North Run and Ava’s story on Metro Radio today, talking to Tony Horne, a real supporter of the run and someone who has his own experience of neonatal care as his daughter Poppy was born two weeks’ prematurely.

Events and conversations this week have really brought home to me that this run is about so much more than a time on a clock. I’m really proud to have been able to raise so much money and awareness for Sands through doing this. And have been amazed by your generosity.

I feel like I’ve taken so many of you with me on this journey, through all its ups and downs. I will be thinking of so many people who have helped and supported me as I stand there at the start line tomorrow. And I know you will be thinking of me too.

So I hope I’ve given you a flavour of what it’s like to train for this amazing event. Because it is amazing. It is special. It has fantastic support and an atmosphere like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. So many moving stories, so many reasons to run.

See you at the finish line!

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