If we didn’t push too hard, do we still need to taper?

A to the title Q: YES. Rest up! 

The fact that Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) is happening in five days is not sending a shot of nerves through my system, because for the first time, I have no attachment to the finish line clock.  Seriously. I’m not just saying that because I did have a time goal but got lazy and didn’t adequately train, or because I had one and now it seems too lofty so I’m pretending like it never existed. I made a self-pact in March that if I did get into this race*, there would be no pressure.

That said, if I’m doing the math right, I’ve learned that having a specific time goal consumes about half of your training energy (give/take five to ten percent, or something). I assume this to be true because as I approach my fourth MCM, with no finishing time in mind, it seems like I still have a lot of mental energy to spend. 

*Marine Corps Marathon is now a lottery, so throwing your name in the hat is a gamble. And then that confirmation email pops up. And then you’re doing the damn thing, which is pretty exciting because this race is the best.

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There were a few logistics that played into this “No time goal” promise to myself, but that’s only part of the equation. The other part is this: after three training cycles focused solely on the time on the clock, I was spent. It wasn’t fun anymore. Some people thrive on chasing those goals, and there’s certainly a lot to be gained from that process. But this time, it wasn’t important.

As I read the confirmation email saying “YES, YOU GET TO RUN MCM AGAIN, GIRLFRAND!” (paraphrasing, here), I knew we’d be in South Africa for at least eight days during marathon month (check!). I also knew that my training months would be full of cross-country flights between SF and DC (check, check, check!). I was fully aware that our summer and early fall would be packed with weekends away, weddings, and squeezing in the miles. What I did not know was that we’d get to bring home a pup seven days before the marathon, but also, CHECK.

Bar Bocce beach lunch

As I thought about training, and fitting it all in, but more importantly enjoying it all, a time goal didn’t compute. No, thanks! We’ll do without it for this round. Nothing lost.

Now here I am, five days out from running 26.2 miles and feeling little feels about it.

I know it’s happening, I do want to run it (so that counts as a feel), I convinced Molly to do the same, and there’s no escaping the fact that Sunday, October 30 is on the five-day forecast already. But there’s a BIG difference between this run and the seven marathons that have preceded it: my brain isn’t exhausted at all. I’m not tired of training. I didn’t look forward to this taper with the longing of a kid waiting for endless summer pool days. I wasn’t anxious to finish the last long run so that I could FINALLY TAPER. There was just one last long run, tiring but no big deal, and then I got on a plane to London (–>Joburg–>Cape Town). The taper just sort of…showed up. Like, hey, I thought, maybe, we could hang out for a bit? And I’m like OK cool, sure, come on in…

Cape town camps bay running

This is a foreign emotional place for me to be in—tapering without little bouts of anxiety plus nerves, without being excited but actually scared-AF every time I think about the race. It’s weird to taper without feeling the NEED to, and without a strong desire to stop running altogether. My brain has only had to focus on the big days of running long and little days of speedwork—which have just been for maintenance, and to keep things fresh—but nothing else. So, it’s still full of oomph! It’s not nearly as exhausted by this whole training thing as it has been in the past.

Long run on Haines pointMaybe if this was marathon number two or three, or even four, I would still be anxious, with or without the time goal. But I trust my legs. I trust what I put them through over the past sixteen weeks, whether it was a perfect training cycle or not. I trust myself enough to pull back, and to be okay with stepping out if, for whatever reason, my legs totally reject the idea of a 26.2 mile run on Sunday.

In the meantime, this taper is flying by just like this training cycle did. I’m so pumped for Sunday, because I’m always pumped for MCM day!

I’m also pumped for all of you who are chasing the clock down on Sunday, and will channel all the extra oomph I have towards you and your goals. Those PR days are damn good days. Marathon days are pretty fun, too.

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