Today, someone who is always a friend, sometimes a fellow runner (almost always ahead of me in races), sometimes a coach, and sometimes my advisee in my job as a professor, was writing an email to me about a race I'd registered for last night and I commented on my upcoming marathon run in three weeks. Three weeks before a marathon, many runners begin what is called a taper. A time to let the body rest and heal while keeping up enough activity to avoid losing strength and cardio. The theory is that the body is ready to run the 26.2 miles of a marathon. That doesn't change in three weeks. What does change is that with rested and healed muscles the performance on race day is the best it can be.
Do most runners enjoy the taper--as was suggested to me? Suffice it to say that a lot is written about the difficulty of the taper. A runner's body is so used to so much more activity that it is difficult to slow down. Runners get tense. Runners get antsy. Runners get irritable. I have been all of these before, but as I go into my fourth (and for a while final) marathon, I think that I actually can enjoy the taper.
I view the taper for exactly what it is. A time of rest. A time to get back to doing other things as I spend less time running. That may be more blogging. More cooking. More time with family. Getting a melody written for some lyrics that have been sitting around for a couple months.
It is also a time to look ahead to the race. A time to reflect on how I got here. And a time to think about what comes after the marathon. Not looking past the marathon in the sense of concentrating on something else beyond he race, but just asking what I will do with the time? Probably after the race even more of what I said for before the race. I even will think about what running means and how to continue to have it be an important part of my life without being the somewhat consuming part of my life that it has become over the past year.
So, since I have learned after three marathons what this part of training feels like, I really think I can enjoy the taper and begin to think about what will come after the marathon. No matter how fast or how slow I run, I will look forward to the experience of the race and all that life has to offer when it is done.