Today is eight days until the Brighton Marathon, fifteen days until the London version. It’s taper time, so it’s about reducing mileage, trying to maintain intensity, and trying to keep the legs feeling as fresh and relaxed as possible so you can give it your all come race day. This can be difficult because after months of training this is the point where you feel perhaps the least fresh and least relaxed of all that time you’ve committed to your efforts so far.
This is also a strange time because it can be filled with worries that tired achy legs, or the slightest niggle, might be about to erupt into some dreadful injury robbing you of the chance to run, or that any sniffle, cough, or slightly sore throat is the prelude to some hideous illness that will render you incapable of taking part in the event that has shaped your running activities for all this time. I tend to find my my own hand washing at this time increases significantly as an attempt to keep these ‘germs’ at bay.
However, there is also a constant question that continually pops up for most runners at this time – race debutants and even the more experienced, is…Am I ready?
It’s a challenging question because there isn’t really a satisfactory answer, because an immediate answer “of course I’m ready” just generates more questions.
What does ready really mean?
How do I know I’m ready?
Why do I feel like I’ll never be ready?
Will I be ready in the start coral?
How ready do I need to be?
This can also be a very powerful feeling which can cause some runners to try to do much in the final weeks of their training. To go for a cramming approach – squeezing in many extra unnecessary miles, which undermines their race because they are too worn out, or even injured, come race day to really perform at their best.
Try your damnedest to avoid this yourself.
Leave it, it’s not worth it!
In fact, this self-questioning about readiness, is all another dimension of what your training has been about. The long runs, the shorter tempo runs, the hill sessions, the stretching, the rolling, the strengthening. Those chats with other runners whilst out about how you’re feeling, ideas on fueling approaches, gels, bloks, fluids, your own home made stuff. Whatever you have achieved so far, and accept that it is an achievement to get this far.
It’s all about discovery. Discovery of yourself as a runner, as a 5k’er, a 10k’er, a half marathoner, a marathoner, an ultra-er. It’s that extra dimension as much about your physical development as it is about how your thinking develops too.
Rose George in a recent review of a book on running by Richard Askwith puts this really well when she writes:
“What is compelling about running is what goes on along with it: inside or outside your head.”
This is the key part of the discovery on how you deal with all that stuff because believe me (and I’ve had this in every race I’ve run) you’re going to get ‘what goes along with it: inside or outside your head’ in spades when you get to the really tough bits in ‘that’ race – whatever the distance. The key thing to hold onto is that each element of your long runs isn’t just about the distance you’ve covered in your longest run. Yes, you are proving to yourself (and your itinerant legs and muscles) that you can run that far, but the biggest part of those long runs is much more about how you deal with the stuff that WILL come up when it comes to your race. The physical part of your training has stretched and worked your running muscles.
But what it has also done is stretched, and worked, and prepared, your ‘readiness’ muscles.
Yes, it will have helped you understand how it feels to run at a pace that will get you round, or get you home in your target time.
How it feels to deal with the tiredness of body and mind as the distance for you increases, and particularly how you get through it to finish.
Yet, what is particularly unseen about this facet of the training is that you are slowly being prepared to deal with, ‘how you deal with running your race distance’ and how you deal with the challenges that will inevitably come up whilst you’re getting round.
Getting ready to cross the start line, getting ready to complete the first kilometre, taking that first drink, pushing through the tiredness and ache that’s telling you that you can’t do it. And, getting ready to cross that finish line, ready to collect your medal, your t-shirt, your goody bag, your kit bag, your transport home. Ready.
So being ready is as much about physicality as it is about your mental preparation up to now. You’re ready now whatever you may feel, believe.
Whatever your mind might be telling you now.
Because what you’ve trained to do is, as Rose George writes in that review above, is only really about:
” just putting one foot in front of the other, at a speed of your choice.”
It works for Usain and Mo. It worked for Dame Kelly, Paula, and Zola Budd. It worked for Zatopek, for Coe, for Ovett.
For foot putting in front of the other, you’re the best. For that you’re perhaps the readiest you’ve ever been. It’s just the speed you’ve got to choose!
Good luck………..it’ll be a blast.