The taper is an evil, last test given to runners before a race. Usually lasting two to three weeks, it is widely recognised as a must do in any training cycle for target races. Yet, to a person, every single runner who has ever gone through the tapering process has suffered from that most awful of conditions “Taperitis”. I know this is true because I made it up and it was then confirmed on social media.
But hey, I am here to help you with it. I can tell you what really happens during a taper in a few handy steps.
What you think is happening: You have lost all of your fitness. The pace you had, the ability to run for long distances and that you are putting on a kilo every time you eat a fat free yogurt or grape.
What is actually happening: The body has been pushed to heightened stress in order to deal with all those big weeks and workouts. Now that you have slowed down it has shut down some of the receptors that keep in that zone. It’s perfectly natural to feel slightly sluggish during the taper. Internally your system is recovering from all that hard work and getting more time to do it. Because of this the energy it used to keep you at the right stress levels has been redirected. Chill, and for God’s sake don’t try and do a marathon PB the day before the race to make sure you are still fit. You are!
What you think is happening: You now hate running with the kind of zeal saved for Donald Trump’s hairpiece or Rolf Harris’s cover of Stairway to Heaven. Your motivation is so low even Rik Waller wants to run more than you. You hate running. It is for annoying people who have no friends and kids they don’t like.
What is actually happening: This happens after destressing. Again, the body is simply recovering and it extends a bit to the mind. The focus you had on hitting all those miles and sessions drops and all of sudden your purpose seems to have waned. It is once again natural. It is part of the processes. This is the period where the body moves from recovery to absorbing all that work.
THE INEVITABLE COLD
What you think is happening: Alien bacteria has dropped off a meteorite and is invading your system. It is killing you from the inside out and manifesting mainly as green mucus running from your smelling device.
What is actually happening: You are probably in hyper-recovery mode and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. The system is working hard on areas that may need its attention more. Meanwhile, grab and hanky, wipe your nose and smile. Everything is fine.
CAN I EVEN DO THIS?
What you think is happening: Despite training like a demon, hitting all your goals and pace targets, you suddenly lose all of your ability. You think that your race plan is bunkum and that an asthmatic octogenarian with a stone in their shoe will beat you on race day.
What is actually happening: You have too much time on your hands to think. Instead of focusing on all of the positives you end up looking at one or two runs that didn’t go quite so well. You are being daft. Get the plan back out, read it, believe it and hit it.
BUT LOOK WHAT THE JONESES ARE DOING
What you think is happening: That everyone else is so much fitter and better prepared than you. They have better gear. They have trained better. They have bought 2L bottles of irn-bru and you only have 1.75L bottles. They have a better crew. They are just better. All of them. The bastards!
What is actually happening: You are reading too many blogs and social media. Step away from the internet and relax.