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Duncan Larkin Tuesday, 05 November 2013 15:44 TWEET COMMENTS 12

Unmotivated to Run? Read This. - Page 6

Oh, No, I Have Taper Brain!

This section is geared for the marathoners out there. The hardest part of training for many runners isn’t doing something like 6 x 1600m on the track, or running for an hour at goal pace; it’s the taper. Why? Because if you are putting in the hard work, then you are used to continually driving yourself to the point of exhaustion. When it’s time to taper, your mind and body go through a bit of shock. Taper brain sets in. Here are some symptoms of taper brain:

  • Loss of confidence.
  • Legs feeling heavy.
  • Loss of motivation.
  • Fear of the upcoming race.

Anxiety that the reduced mileage and workload brought on by the taper result in a loss of fitness.
General sense of irritability and unease.

If you find yourself suffering from taper brain, there are a few things you should do. First, understand that nearly everyone suffers from this condition. The taper is a significant shock to the system. But you need to ignore some of the body’s natural impulses in your taper. After a week of reduced mileage, you may feel like you need to get out on the track and run hard.

Don’t do that.

You need the rest. Drastic measures in a taper will do nothing for you other than possibly ruin your chances to reach your race-day goal. Instead, realize that what you have on your hands during your taper is a golden opportunity: free time.

You don’t need to be out running, so you can round yourself out a bit as a human. If you were once a great philatelist, break out that stamp collection and magnifying glass. If your spouse has been telling you that you used to make the best homemade bread before you got the running bug, get out the rolling pin and don the apron. Always wanted to start learning Latin? Now’s your chance!

In other words, do something else with your time besides fretting about your lack of running. Trust me—a well-executed taper should err on the side of laziness. You’ve earned the right to relax, so go do it.

During your taper runs, you can occasionally push the pace, but be careful. A general rule to follow is not to do any- thing faster than goal pace.

The weekend before a marathon, I used to do 2 x 2 miles at marathon pace with 2 minutes of relaxed running between the repetitions. I used this final workout as a confidence booster. If my taper made those miles feel good, which it usually did, then I knew I was going to have a great race. If the miles were challenging, I told myself I especially needed that second taper week and really backed off my training then.


Duncan Larkin is the news editor at Competitor.com and a freelance journalist who’s been covering the sport of running for nearly a decade. He’s run 2:32 in the marathon and won the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race in 2007. His first running book, RUN SIMPLE, was released last year.


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