The Taper and Fairy Godmothers

Blogs are a bit like buses…you wait for a long time for nothing and then a few come along at once.

My last blog was full of excitement as I looked forward to the big race. Unfortunately, since then, I have experienced what is technically known as a fit of the wobbles. 4 days is a long time in running.

Long runs are essential in a training plan as they prepare your legs for the inevitable long run and let’s be very clear about this, 13.1 miles is a VERY LONG RUN. I have followed my training plan and have done plenty of these over the past few weeks with my long suffering running wife Hattie and although we have managed them, there has always be a caveat which makes me doubt my strength for the task ahead. When Hattie and I set off for a long run, we do slip into a bit of a double act. It’s Hattie’s role to complain bitterly over the first 3k (and for any aspiring runners reading this, thinking about downloading the c25k app – DO IT – but let me tell you that the first 2 miles of any run will always be HIDEOUS and it never changes) and then she is fine. My role as “first 3k cheerleader to Hattie” distracts me from my own misery and so I manage this part of the run a bit better. However, when Hattie hits 8-10k (6 miles) and even 16k (10 miles), genuinely, she is like a train that could go on and on. She has been trying to talk me into a marathon for a while now (I am resisting) but I have no doubts that Hattie could do one and do one in style as she gets stronger the further she runs. However, as much as she starts to hit her groove at 8k, over the past few weeks, the opposite has been the case for me as I have felt neither fresh nor strong after 8 miles. This is alarming me enormously. Will I actually be able to pull an additional 5 miles out of the bag on the day – strongly? Now I know that I will complete the half, because if all else fails then I know I can walk 5 miles, but I want to complete it looking strong and looking like a runner rather than crawling over the finish line.

The second worrying fact is that although we have done quite a few long runs, we haven’t managed any of them without a break – and when I say break, I mean a 5 minute breather waiting for parkrun to start, then another mini-breather waiting to get my barcode scanned before setting off home again. There won’t be any breathers on the day and so I’m worried and feeling under-prepared.

I talked this through yesterday with Hattie and Curly Sue at our coached lunchtime running session through gritted teeth and on the brink of tears (or as much as I could speak in between running up a hill sprinting as fast as I could) and they both calmly reminded me that apparently I felt this way in the fortnight before the Bristol Half Marathon last year.

The two weeks before a half marathon or any longer race are called the “Taper”. This is essentially the “it’s too late to do anything useful now so just keep your legs moving” phase. It is absolutely terrifying and doubly so if you are a bit of a control freak like me. For the past 8 weeks my life has been about training and long runs and now, just as my brain is freaking out and wanting to do as much running as possible, the rules of the taper mean that you must not do a long run. You cannot pull the equivalent of a running “all nighter” to get you through the exam/race. There is nothing more you can do. The next 2 weeks will be about resting, massage, impersonating a camel on the hydration front and eating good food. I will run a 10k this coming weekend and then apart from short runs and a couple of 5ks here and there, there is nothing more to do.

Essentially it’s too late to do anything and I AM FREAKING OUT.

I really, really want to complete the run in less than 3 hours else I will feel like all the extra work I have been doing will be for nothing and as much as I want to enjoy the race, I want to feel like I am progressing. Not enough to try out for the Olympics or anything, but just to be moving along the improvement line in a positive manner. I also don’t want to let Hattie down as she can run faster than me and so I would be very cross with myself if she didn’t get a sub 3 because she was running with me. Additionally I also don’t want to disappoint Curly Sue who has worked so hard on getting us ready and prepared for the start line on the 25th March.

Husband is also running the London Landmarks Half and he is on for a very strong 13.1 miles indeed. His training has been more consistent that any race he has run previously and frankly some of his times over a 1 kilometre distance have been ridiculous. He is in the first wave and so will set off 40 minutes before I will and so will have quite a wait for me at the end.

So in the middle of my panic, a glimmer of hope. My Fairy Godmother, Merida, sent Hattie and I a message. If you recall, Merida paced me to my fastest ever 10k last year at the Bristol 10k last year and we’ve since become good friends as we discovered we have much in common: gin, champagne, running, children, stupidly busy jobs, and …er gin. (Never underestimate the bonding power of gin).

Merida is running London Landmarks Half for MacMillan Cancer and has raised £600 in sponsorship money. Unfortunately, thanks to a couple of bouts of proper flu (not a heavy cold or “man-flu”, but real “put you in bed for a week, oh my goodness I can’t believe I can be this ill and not be in hospital” flu) her training has not been what she had wanted it to be at all. So she messaged Hattie and I to ask if we would like to have another running buddy on the day? Also to say that if we wanted to run a specific time then she would gladly work out the pacings and run with us/shout at us/encourage us over the line too as she would like to help us achieve our goal. I was with Hattie when the message came in and I think we responded with a loud “WHOOP” and “YES PLEASE”.

So this gives me a very real glimmer of hope in an otherwise dark feeling week. Genuinely I don’t know if I can do a sub 3 hour half marathon and I am not someone who likes to contemplate failure, but I have the best friends and support network and so I will try my best. With both Hattie and Merida shouting at me (in an encouraging manner of course…at least I hope so!) I have the best chance, but ultimately I know it’s down to me. I have to pull it out of the bag on the day.

London Landmarks Half Marathon have released an app to allow participants to be tracked along the route. This is a photo of my race number.

Race Number LLHM

Should you wish to follow and send me telepathic cheers of “come on Claire, run faster” or “Merida, run in front of her holding up a can of premix gin and tonic” or “Hattie, just slap her”, this would all be welcomed.

I may or may not blog again before the big day – it largely depends on my state of mind, which as you can see, is up and down. Whatever happens, I will try to be pleased with my time whatever I get. I will try and I am nothing if not a trier.



4 thoughts on “The Taper and Fairy Godmothers

  1. Oh Claire – please don’t panic. You’ve done the training and I’m sure you will be able to get the time you are aiming for. Just start slowly. Don’t expect to run each mile/kilometre at an even pace. Do the first few as a warm up, and then you’ll start to feel more comfortable. Negative splits are the key – there’s nothing more soul destroying than starting off well and slowing towards the end. You want to feel good for the last few miles. You could allow yourself a short walk at drinks stations (if your coaches agree).
    I hope you enjoy the tapering and thoroughly enjoy the Half.


  2. You have done one Half and know you can do it – so rather than sttress if you can come in under 3 hours focus on the plush feeling WHEN YOU WILL COME IN UNDER 3 HOURS! BTW love the name for Merida 🙂 Best wishes to running wife – I will cheer both of you (and Merida!)


    1. Thanks Kerstin. I’m feeling a bit more rational and relaxed this morning…the blog is cathartic and helps me process the information and feelings. I have my fingers crossed and with Paula encouraging and my desire to not slow Janey down, fingers crossed I can do it. If not….I guess I’ll have to keep doing them until I manage it!! xx


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s