(Editor’s note: If you’ve never run a marathon before, do not be dissuaded by taper madness. The rest of it is great.)
Alright all you Chicago marathoners, the big day is less than two short weeks away. You’ve completed your 20(+) miler by now and your weekly mileage has plummeted. Even though you’re running less, mental toughness becomes more and more important going into these next couple of weeks. It should be a dream – run less and eat more carbs – but instead, doubt starts to fill your head. Instead of trusting your training, you start to question if you really need to scale back and get in extra rest.
Welcome to taper madness – that period two to three weeks before the marathon where runners become obsessive over losing their stamina, injuries, gaining weight and weather. Sounds crazy, I know, but if you’ve ever prepped for a big race, you can probably relate.
During this time, it’s important to fill your time. The more you have the chance to sit around and think about running, the more of a mental drain it will be. Grab some friends and go see a movie, pick up that book you’ve been dying to read or fully embrace your “rest” and spend some quality time with your friend Netflix.
Self-doubt may start to fill your head. You may question why you’re running and if you’ll ever be able to complete the race. Doubts are powerful, but so is your training program. Trust that Hal Higdon, Nike or Runner’s World knew what they were doing when they developed your training program. You’ve completed your long runs, you’ve hit your pace. Now visualize yourself crossing the finish line rather than every negative scenario out there.
Remember to eat healthy. Carbo loading is a real thing and your body needs it. Just not every day for the next two weeks. Remember that your mileage is decreasing and your body is not burning as many calories as it’s used to. Runners should eat nutrient-rich carbohydrates at this point. Think sweet potatoes, bananas and old fashioned oats.
It’s normal to check the weather every 15 minutes leading up to the big day. No matter how many times you refresh your weather app, one thing we have no hope of controlling is what the weather actually does that day. One thing that is easily controllable is your pre-race routine. Plan out what you’ll have for breakfast, what you’re going to wear and how you’ll get to the race in advance. Seems simple, right? Having these basic details ironed out will lead to a less stressful race day morning.
Leading up to the marathon, if you find yourself crabby, irritable and a little on edge know this is all just temporary. You have now spent almost 18 weeks gearing up for this event. It’s natural to want everything to go perfectly and to doubt everything you were once so confident about. Just know you’ve got this, you’re going to crush it and you’re going to #ownchicago in two weeks.
How do you combat taper madness?