Sample usage: “I’m not running tonight, I’m tapering.”
The concept of tapering before a big race sounds both pretty simple and amazing: less running, more resting. After you’ve spent weeks or months training for a long race such as a marathon, the prospect of not training is quite exciting. It sounds glorious, doesn’t it? Ease up for the big race! Stop running! Sit back and relax!
Of course, it’s not really that simple.
For a start, tapering doesn’t actually mean not doing any running. It’s about cutting back just enough to rest your body so that it can recover ahead of the big rest. There are plenty of theories about the best way to do this, from people far more qualified to make them that I possibly can. Most marathon training plans include a three-week taper, which cuts back the mileage you do around 20 to 25 per cent per week.
In short, tapering doesn’t mean that you stop running – most plans still include three or four runs on race week, albeit short distances at an easy pace. Still, tapering does mean doing less running. Still, after months of marathon training, that still sounds pretty exciting.
But here’s the thing… tapering isn’t exciting. It isn’t actually that fun. It’s actually really, really hard. It’s a nightmare.
Wait, how can doing less running be hard? How can spending less time pounding the pavements and more time with your feet up on the sofa be a nightmare?
Because, well, it is. Face it, by the time you’re three weeks out from a marathon, it’s pretty much all you can think about it. You want to be as prepared as you possibly can be. And, after months of training, your mind will likely convince you that the best form of preparation is… running. Training. Pounding the pavements. And pushing it.
It’s ridiculously hard to convince yourself that running less can help you run better. It’s tricky to fathom that easing up and going slower when you do go running can help you achieve more.
It’s a bit of a kicker that you spend weeks looking forward to the point of your race training when you start tapering… only to get there and find it really, really hard.