Author: A. Land
Published on: October 19, 2016
Taper crazies are a real, very serious condition, suffered by many distance runners. You work all season long to build your mileage and get you speed and strength work in and then suddenly your big race is on the horizon. Time for the taper.
You’d think that runners would love this time to easy up on mileage, drop down a bit on speed work, and regain a bit of personal time. In fact, most people imagine the taper to be full of restful naps, catching up on Netflix binges on the couch, and finally hanging out with those friends and family you’ve neglected for months. However, the fabulous taper you’ve imagined where everything aligns and the sun shines down upon you in not the case for many runners.
A large percentage of distance runners suffer from a very real case of taper crazies.
Some signs and symptoms of taper crazies:
– For weeks and weeks you have been sore, tired, and praying for the day the taper would start so you can cut back on your mileage. Then suddenly the taper is here and it leaves you wanting to run and run and run more than you ever have.
– Suddenly every little sniffle, ache, or pain seem like the end of the world and you are sure that you have gotten some horrid illness or an awful injury right before the race.
– You sleep pattern can best be described as out of control toddler.
– Emotionally you are a rollercoaster. One minute you are riding a wave of excitement like no other, the next you’re losing it in a Starbucks because someone spelled you name wrong on a cup.
– You have reached a new level of race stalking. The course map, elevation chart, mile markers of each and every aid station, you have looked at it so much that you don’t just know it, you have memorized it, dream about it, and could take over as race director in a pinch, an unhealthy level of obsession.
So if the taper can make you go a bit nuts then why in the world do people still taper?
We choose to taper because we all know there is a difference between running on legs that feel good and running on legs that feel tired. Overworked, sore, heavy legs can kill a run. Heck, on one of my last runs I felt fabulous mentally, was already to go, and yet my pace was 90 seconds a mile slower than usual because my legs were dead from three tough workouts in a row. However, luckily the opposite is also true – running on fresh, rested, happy legs can make those miles faster. That is why it is so crucial to taper before a goal race. You want your legs feeling fresh and ready to go, not heavy and tired from all the hard training you have put in.
What should I do with that extra time?
In shorter distances like the 5K/10K the taper is not very long so this doesn’t usually become an issue; however, tapering for a half/full marathon can last a few weeks and occasionally this sudden cut back in running before a big race can leave runners feeling a bit crazy. Where did all this extra time come from? Shouldn’t I be running? Instead of sitting around fearing that every little cough is turning into Strep Throat (am I the only one who is always terrified I am getting sick before marathons) it is important to shift your race preparations to a new focus.
Some ideas for you:
– extra rolling and stretching
– going to bed a few minutes earlier each night
– checking out the course information (but don’t obsess)
– planning out your race day checklist/packing list
– meeting up with friends/family you’ve been neglecting since training started