Don’t Mess with People Who Run 26.2 Miles For Fun

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Above: When I earned my BAA medal in 2010. Out of my 14 medals, my BAA means the most to me.

Friday was One Boston Day, the third anniversary of the heartbreaking bombing of OUR marathon by domestic terrorists. The Boston Marathon is the oldest and most prestigious marathon in the world; it is a race that belongs to everyone. Whether you qualify or not, Boston is the race that shows the truth of the human spirit and the unfailing love that is part of the running community.

While my work schedule is often hectic and beyond my control, I did manage to observe a moment of silence close to the time when the first bomb went off on Friday. I remember that day three years ago, when I felt like someone literally took a sword and pierced my very soul. It was one of the deepest emotional pains I have ever felt in my life. I would have to say that it was one of the three worst moments I have experienced. Even though I was in NYC in 2001, I would have to say that for me, Boston felt more personal.

As horrific as that moment was, every single minute that has come after has shown the strength, resilience, and perseverance of the community of runners. It has been amazing to see how everyone, even people who are not runners, rally around us to help and heal.

The Boston Marathon is OUR marathon. The finish line belongs to everyone. The marathon represents hope to everyone. It represents the challenges and adversity people overcome to be able to toe the start line. It represents sacrifice. Mornings when we got up at 4 am to run when we would much rather push snooze and roll over. Afternoons spent running in the rain just to get the miles in the tank. Most importantly, the Boston Marathon represents LOVE. And it belongs to everyone. You just don’t mess with people who run 26.2 miles for fun.

Today is Marathon Monday. Happy Patriot’s Day, Massachusetts! This is the day when the crowds line the streets to cheer the accomplishments of everyone in the race. It is a day to come together and celebrate and be kind to one another. We have overcome the atrocity of 4.15.13 by showing each other tenderness and mercy in a time of need. As my hero Kathrine Switzer has said, “If you ever doubt the strength of the human spirit, watch a marathon.”

Speaking of heroes, today also marks 50 years of women being allowed to run the marathon. I am thankful for the opportunity to run every single day. At one time, women were not allowed to run more than a mile because it was thought that running more than that would make us unable to bear children. Of course, we all know this is a misconception. Many women have both ran marathons and bore children. However, it should be noted that part of the confusion came from the fact that when we run a marathon, it works the muscle groups directly below those used in natural childbirth. So yes, they are equivocally the same. Running a marathon pretty much does the same thing to our bodies as natural childbirth. However, marathoning does nothing to interfere with our ability to bear children. This was a huge hurdle that had to be overcome in order for women to be able to run marathons.

While Kathrine Switzer is well known for running Boston using only her first initial for registration and surviving an attempt by the race director to throw her off the course screaming “Give me those numbers,” we must remember that, in fact, the first woman to run Boston was Bobbi Gibb. Bobbi is one of the pioneers of women’s running that helped pave the way for the rest of us. 50 years ago women were not allowed to run marathons. Today, we make up about half the field in almost every race.

In 1980, American Joannie Samuelson won gold in the inaugural women’s marathon in the Olympics. Just a short 36 years ago, we showed the world that not only can women run marathons, but also that we can do so on a competitive international level. The three women: Bobbi, Kathrine, and Joan are the pioneers of women’s running. Today’s Boston Marathon is a celebration of the barriers we have overcome to be able to run this great race.

I am so proud and so blessed to have the ability to run. It is the greatest gift that I have in life. While considered a solitary sport, it is amazing to see what we can do once you get a group of runners together. We run to raise money for charity. We run to bring awareness to causes. We continue to run even when we are hungry and tired. We run through joy, we run through tears. We just keep going, because to stop would be one of the greatest pains to experience.

There is a meme that has gone around the Internet in running circle with a Matrix-like scenario. If you take the red pill, you can continue running at your current level for the rest of your life. If you take the blue pill, you will see significant improvement in your ability to be competitive, but your super running ability will only last for 5 years and then you will not be able to run anymore. I choose the red pill. Every time. I choose the red pill. I cannot imagine my life without running in it.

I will be doing a trail run today in solidarity with Boston. The day I earned my Boston medal in 2010 was one of the best days of my life. Let us never forget 4.15.13. We must honor those that we lost by continuing to run. We must run for those who cannot because we know they would do the same for us. We must show all terrorists everywhere that even if you bomb our race, it will not stop us from toeing the start line and from crossing finish lines again and again. Each step that we take is a step full of love.

You don’t mess with people who run 26.2 miles for fun because we have the ability to be, show, and bring out the best in humanity. Today we celebrate not only women’s running but also the hope and love that the marathon symbolizes. #BostonStrong

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Pre-Gaming the 2016 Running Season

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Here in the northeast, running season 2016 officially opens in April. The Boston Marathon is the kickoff of the year, as crowds line the streets to cheer and to celebrate the sacrifice and diligence that went into training for such a rigorous course over the hard winter months. Registration for fall races typically opens in April, and runners eagerly plan their training schedules and hope to get that BQ or PR. As I look forward to the opening day of running season with glee, here are the areas that are receiving my attention in the off-season.

Music

One of the small pleasures that I allow myself each season is that I add 5 new songs to my runningpod at the start of the year. I am not big on digital music, as I prefer to have a tangible album that I can admire as a work of art, but I do have a small screenless iPod that has replaced my cassette walkman for running. Adding five new songs each season is one of my small guilty pleasures that helps with the motivation factor in the dull, grey days of winter.

My most significant addition to my thoughtfully curated running list this year is the fact that, after 14 medals, I have a new running theme song  that is now in regular rotation on my runningpod. This song actually came from a CD that I already own, so while I will be adding 5 new songs this season, not all of those songs need to be purchased. Having new music on my runningpod helps me to drag myself to the gym to be tortured by the freakmill (my term of endearment for treadmill) when there is too much ice and snow to run the trails. New music also helps me to push through hard workouts, as I incorporate cross-training and push my body in ways other than endurance during the off-season.

Nutrition

Pre-gaming the 2016 running season is also the time to evaluate nutrition to ascertain that I am receiving the proper fuel to be able to sustain a grueling training program and race season. Fueling both before and after workouts is important, as is what you eat on rest days. We cannot expect to be top producing athletic machines if we put crap into our bodies and do not fuel with good nutrition choices to be top performing athletes. In addition to Gatorade and gels, it is about the choices we make for each meal and snack that aid in muscle recovery and ensure that we are ready and pumped to perform when needed.

This year, I am making changes to my post-run snack list. Juggling multiple food allergies the past few years has been particularly challenging, and it has taken me quite a while to get to the point where I can handle them in stride. I have snacks planned for the 2016 running season that will not only give me the proper carb/protein balance needed for optimal muscle recovery, but hopefully also provide enough variety so that I do not get bored with what I am eating.

When I first started running, I did not have food allergies. All of my food allergies have been adult on-set, so making changes to this area of my life has taken a back burner to the crisis of trying to figure out what to eat on a daily basis. Now that I have had some time and experience with managing my food allergies, I feel I am able to make better choices in my food selections to be sure that not only am I eating food that will not kill me, but I can make choices to ensure that I am properly fueled to be a top performing athlete.

This season, I plan on adding more variety to my diet. I often feel that my food choices are limited given my multiple food allergies. However, now that I am retired, I have discovered that there are so many foods to which I am not allergic with which I can experiment and find creative ways to prepare. My goal is to try at least one new recipe per month to be able to give me a wider variety of foods to eat to be sure I am receiving proper nutrition. I have also recognized that I tend to stick with the same fruits and vegetables routinely. I am hoping to be able to expand the variety of fruits and vegetables that I eat this year and to truly incorporate the entire rainbow of produce.

Cross-Training

Perhaps my most favorite form of cross-training is boxing and martial arts. However, after multiple head injuries combined with a lack of funds for ring fees, I now have to seek alternate options for cross-training. Add to this the fact that I have some specific areas of my body that are in need of strengthening to prevent the type of injury that seriously sidelined me in the 2015 running season.

This year, I am focusing more on strength training and plyometrics. Plyometrics should address the specific body areas that contributed to last year’s injury. Strength training is crucial for all runners. As I get older, I am discovering more and more how beneficial strength training is for my life. Most weight equipment was designed to accommodate a 150-pound male. Given that I am an approximate 100-pound female, I intend on focusing on free weights instead of machines for my strength training. Not only can I do this at home, but also it saves me from trying to fit into weight machines that were not designed for someone of my size.

Balance and flexibility are usually lacking in runners and often contribute to injury. In addition to all the surfing I plan to do this summer, which helps with balance, I am also incorporating some yoga and pilates into my routine to help with balance and flexibility. The goal for the 2016 running season is to run well and to remain injury-free. Now that I have more free time than ever before, I am hoping to incorporate more play into my day and to be active in different, fun ways that use a variety of muscle groups.

Clothing/Run Wear

On one of my recent minimalist sprees, I was quite surprised to find that I had three storage bins full of running wear and running related paraphernalia. I literally had at least one, if not multiple, shirts from pretty much every race I have ran. Some of them were t-shirts and some of them were technical, wicking shirts. I decided that my medals are much more a reflection of my accomplishments and meaningful to me than any t-shirt could ever be.

I went through all three bins and got rid of all but my most favorite shirts. I also went through all of my running gear currently in use and realized how ratty some of my technicals have become after being constantly drenched in sweat, even after having been washed in sports wash and air dried. I took this purging as the opportunity to replace the well-worn technicals with some of my race technicals that have pretty much just been hanging out in a storage bin. What is the point of having a bunch of race technicals if I am not going to wear them?

Now, every time I go for a training run, I can celebrate my accomplishments by wearing one of my race technicals. Plus, it serves as a reminder of the reward that is waiting at the end of a long and hard training season. It makes me feel like I have an entirely new running wardrobe when all I did was to start using what I already had in storage. What is the point of storing something unless you are going to use it? Now my goal is to put all new race technicals immediately into rotation and to remove any items that are smelly or ratty. No matter if you always use sport wash and air dry your running clothes, there comes a point when they are just smelly and nothing will remove the stench of sweat from well-used workout clothes.

I no longer have three storage bins of run wear. All of my running clothes are currently out and in current rotation. While I have updated other aspects of my running gear, like rotating shoes every 300-500 miles, I had neglected to update running shorts and running shirts. I am pretty sure that some of that old smelly ratty run wear that went to the rag pile are from almost 10 years ago when I first started running. It was definitely time to start using what I already have available.

Conclusion

Now that I have been retired for a few months and have taken the opportunity to relish in my newfound free time, I realize that the beauty of rewinding real slow is that I now have the time to focus on the things that are most important to me. I have time in my life to be able to focus on running and cross-training so that I can get through a running season uninjured. I have both the time and the energy to put into making 2016 the best running season yet. I’m looking forward to it.

 

Back in the Saddle

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Look who is off the injury list with a 2-mile trail run! It was a balmy 39 degrees as I laced up my second pair of Mizuno Wave Rider limited edition model 15s today. I was very fortunate that in my first run back after my last marathon in which I tore muscles in my right hip that I was able to run comfortably without pain today.

I was very fortunate in this injury in that I received stellar medical care and was able to have the luxury of listening to my body completely in regards to what it needed to heal. My massage therapist introduced me to Thai massage to help with this injury, and I highly recommend Thai massage not only for injuries but also for routine maintenance. While I have traditionally received Swedish massage, now that I have experienced Thai, I do not want anything else. Apparently, if you go to the hospital with an illness or injury in Thailand, hospitals provide this type of massage as medical care. After having 4 sessions to aid in the recovery of a torn muscle, I completely understand why this is medical care.

Now that I am off the injury list, I am officially in the off-season. Off-season is the time for cross training and for building strength for the upcoming 2016 running season. I have spent my time on the injury list fully evaluating my injury from all angles, and have determined the best ways to prepare for the next running season. I have figured out which muscle groups need to be worked and how in order to avoid a repeat of the injury I received this year.

Runners are not made on race day. Runners are made in the days and months of training preceding the race. While I am not currently actively training for the 2016 running season, I am working on cross training and strength that will provide the base I need in order to train in 2016. While I am running this winter, my mileage does not often go more than 5 or 6 miles in the off-season. My running is supplemented with swimming, strength training, plyometrics, and various stretching, lengthening and flexibility routines.

While I was ecstatic to be back running in my Mizunos today, I know I have a long road ahead to be sure that I can build a better base for 2016 that will be impervious to the injury that plagued me in 2015. The off-season is not the time to be soft. The off-season is the time to work all muscle groups that do not always get worked once the high mileage of full marathon training kicks into gear. I anticipate that I will not need to start training for my 2016 race until about June or so. I have about 6 months to work my muscles to make sure they are injury-proof for the next race.

The best part of the off-season is the flexibility and creativity that is involved in this portion of the training process. Think of Rocky in Philly chasing chickens or pounding cattle ribs. This is the time of year when training does not have to be orthodox, as long as muscle groups are being worked and prepped to be able to handle the intensity of marathon training that is yet to come.

So, I am back in the saddle again. It may only be 2 miles, but I have a lot of work ahead of me. While I am technically off the injury list, the injury is never far from my mind, as I now must work to be sure that it does not happen again. It’s good to be back.

 

 

Beauty in the Breakdown

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In 14 races, I ran my worst marathon this past week. It was wicked hard, but it was also an amazing learning experience. They say you can’t enjoy the good runs unless you know what it is like to have a bad run. Well, now I can appreciate the good runs more.

In this race, I learned what I like and don’t like in a race. I learned how to push myself way beyond my comfort zone. I learned to rely on my training. If I had not been adequately trained and prepared for the challenges I faced, then the outcome would have been a lot worse that what occurred.

As far as the race itself, this is what it taught me: I do not like small races. With only 3,000 runners, this was my smallest marathon ever. I usually do the large city races with 30,000-40,000 runners. In such a small race as the one I just did, there is not a lot of crowd support, and medical care is so stretched out that it’s scary. I am used to the big cities where thousands of people line the streets screaming each and every mile unless I’m running on a bridge. I am used to having a medical professional within eyesight for the entire 26.2 miles. The positives in running a small race and learning this, is that I was able to prove to myself that I can make it without those amenities. I was able to push through and finish the race without an iPod, without cheering crowds lining the streets, and without the constant presence of medical support. I can run a marathon without those amenities. Do I want to run a marathon without those amenities? No, I don’t.

I sustained an injury to the TFL (tensor fasciae latae) muscle in my hip somewhere between miles 18-22. If I had been on a course in a much larger city, medical professionals would have noticed the injury sooner and pulled me off the course. I would have been a DNF (did not finish). Instead, I pushed on to make the finish line. First, I did not understand exactly what was wrong or was happening, and second, I am one of those stubborn runners who push on just to get the medal.

I am fortunate in that I was adequately trained to be able to handle this injury in such a way that it will eventually heal and I am expected to make a full recovery. However, sustaining the injury has led me to a second reason why this was my worst race ever.

The course description was not accurate. Most course descriptions are not accurate. I have run marathons described as flat that were in fact gently rolling hills. I have run marathons described as gently rolling hills that were in fact downhill. While most race descriptions are not entirely accurate, they are usually pretty close to truth. This particular course was described as downhill, so I trained for a downhill race. What it was, in fact, was a hilly race. They were not gently rolling hills. They were not rolling hills. These were hills. There was a huge discrepancy in the description and elevation maps compared to reality. Sure, there were many course changes prior to the event, that required re-certification and new measurement, but there was a gross discrepancy in what was described and how I spent 5 months training.

After my injury, the medical personnel confirmed that the injury would have been much worse if I did not have the muscle tone that I have. I trained for a downhill course, and that was what I was prepared to run. A course that was extremely hilly put more pressure on my body that it could handle; I was not prepared for hills. HILLS. They were not rolling, nor were they gentle. I have run hill races before. I have done fine on hills courses, when that is what I have trained to run.

This race also taught me that the 2015 training season was my best training season ever. I was very well prepared to run a marathon. At my 18 mile split, prior to injury, I was on track to set a PR and within minutes of a potential BQ. At the end, it all fell apart due to injury and ended up being my slowest marathon time by over an hour. The important part was that I was able to finish and was not a DNF.

I have learned to do better research when looking into races to run. I usually try to choose established races so that kinks like this have already been worked out. This marathon was the 20th anniversary – I figure 5+ years to be my barometer for “established.” However, due to the drastic course changes that occurred in the weeks right before the race, the course I experienced was way different than the one for which I trained.

I will definitely be making changes and improvements to my training for 2016 to be able to strengthen the muscle currently injured. Right now, I am thankful that the surrounding muscles are strong enough to be able to support the one that literally took one for the team.

I am so thankful for every single day that I get to run. I can’t wait to heal and to come off the injury list to be able to run again. This race and this injury have taught me that I am so blessed to have been able to participate in 14 races so far. While I am looking forward to many more, I need to be able to continue to run smart.

I can’t believe that it took me 14 races to learn that I do not like small town venues. You grow through pain. You also learn so much about yourself once you go beyond your comfort zone. While this was my most challenging race in 14, I feel like I have learned so much about myself that is only going to improve my race decisions, training, and preparation for the future.

There is beauty in the breakdown. Without this experience, I would not have learned what I was capable of doing, or how adequate my training is, or what I don’t like. Sometimes knowing what you don’t like in life is as valuable as knowing what you do like.

I have been very fortunate in my running career thus far in that my good runs and races have way outnumbered my bad runs and races. This is pretty much only the second time in 14 races that I am saying, “I will never run that one again.” For the record, the other race I have said that about is due to logistics of the host city surrounding the race, not the course or race itself. This is the first time in which I loved the host city, but loathe the race.

I have learned so much through this negative experience than I have through my positive ones. The beauty in the breakdown is being able to take this knowledge to ensure that my race schedule for 2016 is amazing.

I’ll be on the injury list for the rest of the 2015 season, but I’m looking forward to the 2016 running season as being stronger, faster, and better. That’s the beauty of the breakdown.

Running Down A Dream

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Boston. It’s the Holy Grail of running. Every runner strives to earn a Boston Athletic Association medal. We throw around acronyms like BQ, PR, maxO2, and Gu. Ok, so Gu is a food group, but you know what I mean. Most likely when you meet a non-runner who finds out you run marathons, one of the first questions they ask is, “have you done Boston?” If you are in the Midwest, they probably ask, “how many Grandmas have you done?” referring to Grandmas Marathon, not your beloved senior citizen relative.

Everyone knows about Boston. Boston is the oldest, most prestigious, and has the strictest qualifying guidelines of any race outside of the Olympics. Qualifying standards for Boston are like Victorian chastity belts with a lock and key. Each year we look to see if the standards have changed, and pray for more birthdays so that we can change age groups to perhaps a less competitive one, or simply to get that extra 5 minutes to qualify. Many non-runners do not even know or understand that you have to qualify for Boston. You have to be invited. It’s like waiting for the fancy invite in gold calligraphy to be delivered to you by a guy in tuxedo tails wearing white gloves on a red carpet. You do not just “sign up for Boston.” It’s an elite club that not everyone can join. It’s kind of like a country club, except this one has lots of sweat and trail mix involved.

It is every runner’s dream to cross the finish line in Boston. It is truly the people’s Olympics. The finish line in Boston is the physical manifestation of everyone’s hopes and dreams as they sweat, train and run to achieve what less than 1% of the world population does – run a marathon. The magic of Boston is that in addition to all the professional runners who have 7 hours a day to train with professional trainers and chefs, it is also the housewife who rolls out of bed at 4am to get 15 miles in before the kids are awake and works in a supermarket that can qualify for Boston. You rip a training plan out of a magazine, and say, “I’m going to run a marathon.” Maybe your sister just got a cancer diagnosis, and you’re going to raise money and work with Team in Training (lymphoma and leukemia research). Maybe your mom just passed away from breast cancer, and you are going to run 26.2 with Donna (the marathon in Florida where all the proceeds go to breast cancer research). Maybe you ran a 5k with your kid and remembered how fun and free it feels to run and just “caught the bug” to run a marathon. Maybe you want to lose 40 or 60 or even 100 pounds, and start out just by walking around the block.

Whatever your story, wherever we come from, we are runners. We all have the same dream. The beauty of Boston is that the dream is attainable by any of us. Boston is not just for the people who have the privilege of making Olympic Dream Teams. Boston is the dream that many of us everyday people who have mortgages and kids and work 40 or more hours a week can make true.

Personally, I do not run fast enough to qualify for Boston. Maybe in a few years, once I reach the Masters category, and some minutes are tacked on to my qualifying standard, I will, but I’m not going to hold my breath. I would have to shave at least 40 seconds off of each and every mile to qualify for Boston. The full marathon is not my fastest distance. It is my most favorite distance, but it is not my fastest. Something happens between miles 22 and 26 where, even if I have been on track to earn my BQ, I completely lose my mind and blow it.

My best distance is the half marathon. I have qualified for and ran the Boston Half Marathon, which is how I earned my Boston Athletic Association medal. I don’t mind running half marathons. I do like to change up my race distances every now and again. The half marathon is not my favorite distance. The full marathon may be my most challenging, but is also my favorite.

As I have gotten older, and am approaching the Masters category in a few years, I still have a dream of Boston and getting my BQ. I am not going to kill myself for it. Yes, I can sit there and crunch the numbers and amp up my training, but what is more important to me at this point in my life than achieving my BQ is ensuring my health and safety to be able to run as long as possible throughout my life. Getting a BQ is not going to mean anything if I push it so hard that I sustain an injury that ends my running career. I have already overcome so much to be able to run marathons: a total of 10 broken bones, which includes breaking my spine in three places and spending time in a wheelchair, to 5 concussions, to a patella tear that almost did end my running career.

I am part of this magical community called runners in which we wave at each other as we pass on the trail, we help each other when we are struggling, and we line the streets to cheer for random strangers as they participate in their distance event and run pass. Yes, I am screaming for you, Random Citizen! You are not almost there, but you do look amazing, even if you are grimacing like a monkey humping a football because you are living your dream of running a marathon! That makes you look beautiful.

It doesn’t matter if you get a BQ or not. It does not matter if you come in first, middle or last. It doesn’t matter how many people have crossed that finish line before you, as long as you cross it. Many of us will never get our “15 minutes of fame.” But, you will get 1 second. That one second that your foot hits that finish line and clocks your time for completion, that one moment that you finish your marathon, whether it is your 1st, your 15th, or your 20th, that one moment YOU are the greatest athlete on the planet. That one-second is yours to own. You can say, “I did this.” “I ran a marathon.” Less than 1% of the world’s population can say that, folks.

Boston is every runner’s dream and it is always out there. For me, what is most important is not that I cross the finish line in Boston, but that I continue to keep crossing finish lines anywhere. We are all part of the same community. Boston is the oldest, most prestigious, and most beloved race. Even if you never achieve your BQ, that finish line belongs to all of us. It is the embodiment of all our hopes and dreams. If you never qualify for the bib, you can go spectate. You can still be part of the dream. Whether you are on the race course or part of the crowd, the magic that is Boston will course through your veins. A popular saying has been attributed to many, so it’s origin is uncertain states: “If you ever lose faith in humanity, go watch a marathon.” It’s true. Even if you never get your BQ, the magic of Boston can be experienced just by being there. Boston is every man’s dream.

As I approach medal # 14 this weekend, Boston is still my dream. Always was, always has been, and always will be. I chose one of the top ten fastest race courses in the country with a net elevation drop of 800 feet for my 14th race in an effort to qualify. Will I get my BQ? Probably not. But I will cross the finish line, and I will be able to train next year to cross a finish line somewhere else again. I will cross the start line. I will cross the finish line. I will run a good race.

Every April, whether we have achieved a BQ or not, the world watches with love and hope as people run the Boston Marathon. We are all running down a dream.

The Insanity of Taper Mode

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The last three weeks of every marathoners training plan are not only challenging, but also crucial. Taper mode is that point at which your body is fully trained and prepared to go the distance of 26.2 miles long on race day, but your brain does not agree. To complicate this process, your training plan now says that you are supposed to decrease your mileage, rest, eat, and hydrate well in preparation for race day.

This seems to make total sense until you actually reach the point in the training plan where you enter Taper Mode and your brain screams: “Nooooooo. Noooooo. We’re not ready! We can’t do this! We must run more! I am not ready for the start line!”

To which your body responds: “Chill. We got this. We ready. We trained. Now is time to rest and gather our stores of glycogen and other nutrients to be able to perform.”

Yes, you are, in fact ready to race.

Your brain is not going to hear that. Your brain is not going to believe. Taper mode is called “the insanity of taper mode” because this is the point at which even the most psychologically robust completely loses their mind.

You develop OCD. You tell everyone you live in a bubble and to not touch you.

You’re like the llama in the Emperor’s New Groove telling everyone to not touch you.

The last few weeks before a marathon, you are also at your most vulnerable, immune wise. You sanitize everything like an air lock on a spaceship. Then you sanitize it again. You sanitize so much you should buy stock in soap and baby wipes.

Your training plan for Taper Mode says 6 miles. You cheat. You run 8 miles instead.

You panic. You pray. You make deals with both God and the Devil and anyone else who seems like they may be able to help you in any way. Your brain is on full-out psychotic freak out mode because it just realized you are about to run a MARATHON and that is 26.2 miles long. It’s way different from those Netflix marathons you’ve been doing to try to cope with Taper Mode.

All you need to do is make it to the start line healthy and strong. If you can make it to the start line, your body will do the rest. The start line is just as important as the finish line. In order to complete a marathon, you must cross both.

You start reading inspirational quotes, books, blogs, magazines, and watching inspirational movies to try to get yourself over the hump. You start imagining worst-case scenarios. You mentally prepare for this race better than some cult about to eat the pudding before the Hale Bopp comet. Run, walk, crawl, drag, or if in Philly, IN DRAG, you will cross the finish line. You imagine every single possible way and scenario to finish 26.2 miles because your brain does not think you are ready. You break it up into chunks: it’s a 5k with a 23 mile warm up, it’s a 10k with a 20 mile warm up, and any other chunk you can break down.

Meanwhile, your body is relaxed. Your body knows. Every fiber of every muscle in your body has been trained. The imprint of the 500+ miles you have run in the 5 months it took to prepare for the race are ingrained in your muscles. Your body knows what to do.

Your brain needs to get it together.

Calm down, man.

It doesn’t matter if it is your first time, your 20th, or your 50th, Taper Mode always feels this way. For me, I am going for medal # 14. Taper Mode is always the same. Your body is ready, and your brain is completely freaked out. You have followed the training plan, and the training plan has worked 13 times before. You will be fine.

But honestly, the insanity of taper mode makes the marathon that much more beautiful. When you lace up on race day, cross the start line, and get into the rhythm of the race, you will find that moment where your brain finally agrees with your body and calms down: “We got this.” That moment, when everything clicks into place, you just fly like you are on cruise control, and enjoy the moment for which you have spent a significant amount of your year preparing to do. That is the moment of marathon magic.

So while the insanity of taper mode is sure to be annoying and drive everyone crazy, in some ways it is necessary. Being able to appreciate how far you have come and everything you have OVERcome to get to this point is part of the marathon magic. The miracle is that you had the strength, the discipline, and the fortitude to train for those 5 months. This is for the Sunday morning long runs when you would have much rather stayed in bed and listened to the radio, this is for all the times when you ran in the pouring rain because you had to get the miles in, and a treadmill would have been worse punishment than anything mother nature can muster.

To run a marathon, you have to go a little crazy.

“But I’m not ready,” says brain.

“Yes, we are,” says body.

“We will start and we will finish,” says heart.