Taper? Or fall off a cliff? Conquering the doubt before race time.

With three days until the Philadelphia marathon the nerves have begun to set in for the over 30,000 runners preparing for the weekends three races (or at least they have for me).

Everyone is continually asking: “Do you feel ready?”, “Are you excited?”, “Do you have a goal?” “What are you wearing?”

My answers…I did, I was, I did, neon yellow?

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As of right now, this seems like a likely outfit for race day.

The couple weeks before, when your mileage drops, your long runs shorten, your rest days increase and the nightly craving for ice cream (supposedly) diminishes is not altogehter confidence building.

I tend to feel like I’m past my prime, like I’m gaining weight, like the aches and pains are calling for more attention and that, dare I say it, I’m slightly sick of running.

When people ask if I’m ready I can only think that this race should have happened three weeks ago when I ran 22 miles with minimal pain or hassle. When people ask if I’m excited, I think that 7am on a Sunday sounds like a good time to be in bed. When people ask if I have a goal I think well I did, but, are the aches and pains still on board? Specifically the right hip. Is the right hip ready for a PR? When people want to know what I’m wearing I think about how unpredictable November weather can be.

Instead of the taper making me feel refreshed and ready, it makes me feel like I’ve dropped off a cliff (training wise anyway).

So why do it? Besides the fact that I already paid over $100 to run for four hours with thousands of other people around me before the sun even rises, what motivates me and others to get to that line? To believe that we will finish?

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Me post marathon #2…I’m hoping I can smile like that after this next one.

For me, the fact that I’ve done it before helps. My stress level is so much less than it was (even with the hip pain) a little over two years ago when I headed to the starting line in Hartford, CT. But much more than that, it is a combination of trust, determination and craving for the kind of joy I only get from screaming fans, funny signs, fellow runners and my foot crossing over a finish line 26.2 miles later.

Trust your fitness. It is something my high school cross country coach used to yell at my teammates and I from the sidelines as we passed the two mile marker and headed in for the final stretch. At the time I kind of thought it was silly, but the more I’ve run (and the more I’ve studied biology) I’ve realized he had a point. The fact that I’ve put in the time, the miles, the hours of running means I have prepared my muscles for this day. They are equipped with more glycogen stores (on the go energy) than average and muscle fibers that are built for endurance (not speed).

Determination, because we all know (thanks again to my cross country coach and his favorite running book) that racing is 97% mental. My mom always laughs at this, and she has a point. My mind, no matter how much I want it, can’t physically propel my body the 26.2 miles. But….at the same time, what gets me up at 4am to run before work? What convinces me to stay in on a Friday night so I’m ready for a Saturday long run? What, after a discouraging taper, gets me to the starting line? My determination to do what I said I would, to run the Philadelphia marathon.

 

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It’s the fans and the signs that get me through.

Lastly, and most important of all, craving the thrill and excitement of a road race is what made me sign up for this race and what motivates me all the way to race day. Before my very first half marathon, my friend and running buddy said that there are few other times and places as an adult that you get the rush of being cheered for.

At the time, I’m not quite sure I knew what she meant, but nearly four years later with several road races under my belt, I definitely understand. Whether or not you are an elite runner (and I am certainly not) everyone is cheering for you. Signs tell you you’re awesome, fans tell you that you’re looking great, fellow runners encourage you through the toughest miles and when you cross the finish line, you’re a winner simply because you stuck it out.

You trusted your training, let your determination take you to the start and allowed the excitement to power you through to the end.

So, am I ready for Saturday? Am I excited? Do I have a goal? Do I know what I’m wearing?

My answer to all of those, despite the taper, is a resounding yes (as long as my right hip’s on board.)

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