May 28, 2012

Taper? I hardly knew 'er!

There's weird ethos among runners before a race day. I don't mean the beatific sweaty grins we give each other, like oh my, why do people do drugs when they can just make their glands open up and soak them in endorphins, won't we just all live forever.

I mean the more you run, the more you feel weird when you're not running.

For those unfamiliar with marathon terminology, the taper is the time at the end of your training in which you do not run. This is an important thing to do, not running. The theory goes that by not running, your body is saving up all of its energy, which will burst forth like the Kool-Aid Man through a brick wall and allow you to gallop across the finish line as though you were a horse with a handful of ginger up its deuce.


Now, I made a personal goal to run every day in April. I did just that, and the final tally was 115 miles run in the course of a month. Depending on your level of activity, you may pshaw or be shocked at the number; my physical fitness level is former-fatty-turned-athlete gone to seed, I say it like this: A HUN-dred and fif-TEEN MILES-uh.

And actually, it was fine. I even lost about four pounds.

By comparison, I ran the last of my long training runs last Sunday. Ten miles, 75 degrees, overcast skies. It took slightly over two hours, and I even managed not to walk at all for the last two miles (finishing strong, in sadistic runner parlance).

I spent the rest of the day bent over as my body freaked the hell out, burning sugar in any form it could find and putting twinkly lights in front of my eyes. As my body shook its head with rancor and chucked another kidney on the fire, I tried to keep some muscle mass intact by chugging apple juice and packing away protein. The next day, my knees hurt, but I was otherwise fine.

Conclusion: Running is good for you. Racing is finding out how good you are at it.

There's nothing wrong with being a slow or infrequent runner, because in the end, you'll lose more weight and get more cardiovascular fitness by taking a short run every day than limping through distance races. So if I see you with my fellow tortoises on Sunday, I'll give you a plastered-haired wave as the sinewy eight-minute group sails past us, happy in the knowledge that running is a noun that doesn't give a shit about adjectives.

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