Taper madness

I’m losing it.

I freely admit that I can be a bit obsessive neurotic intensely focused, but this taper has me going crazy. I thought tapers were supposed to be relief from the hardcore training you put your mind and body through for weeks?

It all started after my 20-mile run around the city. I had such a great run. I felt strong, prepared and like I was in the best shape of my life. I’d spent the last 15 weeks running and training diligently for the Marine Corps Marathon – now just days away.

The week after that long run proved to be much harder than I expected. While I had technically started the taper, I still had decent mileage to log – runs of four, eight, five and 12 miles for the first week of the gradual decline. During my first run back, the IT band pain I’d experienced back in July and August came roaring back out of nowhere. And to make matters worse, when I got home, I noticed that the top of my left foot and ankle ached. That had never happened before.

What was going on? Why did everything start hurting two weeks before my first marathon?

I dismissed it as my body being worn out from the long run I’d just logged, but secretly, a seed was planted in my mind that everything was about to go very, very wrong.

I immediately began incorporating glute-strengthening exercises three times a day, closing the door to my office during lunch to avoid the curiosity of coworkers who might wonder why I was lying in a bridge position on the floor lifting my legs up and down.

Sometime between my first and second run back, the pain in my foot migrated to the underside of my big toe. I thought that perhaps my Brooks Ghost 5s had gone bad, but they only had about 225 miles on them. I had a new pair of shoes (the same model) at my disposal, so I slipped them on and headed out for an eight-mile run. Halfway through, I found myself sitting in the middle of the road, massaging my aching knee and whispering a prayer to finish. I got up, the pain subsided, and I made my way through the rest of the run.

Then I did what you should never, ever, do when you have an ailment.

I read the interwebs.

By the time I was finished “researching,” I had self-diagnosed my aches to the point of being stricken with Ebola. Without the hemorrhagic fever. Or bleeding eyes.

As I ran my 12-mile run that weekend, I wore a knee brace for the first time in months. I made it four miles before the IT band tightened up. I pressed on, and after awhile, it loosened up and I was able to finish.

My first run out this week was just four miles, and I ran it faster than I’d run in awhile. My IT band felt great (my glutes and hammies were sore from the conditioning), but my foot continued to ache. And now the ache had spread to the arch and heel.

I just knew had plantar fasciitis. I just knew it. 12 days before the marathon, and I’d developed plantar fasciitis.

I immediately scoured the Runner’s World fora and found countless other desperate folks who had the same problem. I read articles on legit medical sites. I read articles on obviously non-legit “medical” sites. I asked for advice on Facebook. I peppered marathoner friends with questions. Is this PF? How do I get rid of this now? Is my foot going to fall off?

I basically started to crack.

And then I got the best advice I could receive.

Chill. Out. Brah.

Things happen. And sometimes they happen when we don’t want them to. And more often than not, they happen to runners when runners are about to do something runner-y. It’s hard for me to admit that things can’t be perfect all the time, so I’m making a concerted effort to just calm down. I’m skipping some of the rest of my runs, and I’m adding some plantar stretches and treatments (including the awesome recommendation to roll a frozen water bottle along the arch of my foot) between now and the race. I don’t even know if I have PF. It doesn’t hurt in the morning, and the ache is intermittent. It could just be a strain. And it could go away tomorrow.

I debated writing and posting this entry because I didn’t want to sound whiny, but I think that there might be someone out there freaking out about the same things and could use a bit of encouragement that everything is going to be fine. If you’re like me, that can be hard to accept, but you must.

You’ve done the training. You’re prepared. Just go run.

Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

Keep running, friends.


17 responses to “Taper madness

  1. I think you’re one of about 30,000 obsessing about every pain, sniffle and sneeze right now for fear it will hurt them on the 28th. Every time I step out the door to run, I start to inventory every pain I feel and wonder if it’s the start of something bigger. I think it just comes with the territory.

    Good luck & see you on the 28th!

  2. Hey Glenn, sorry to plug one of my own blog posts on here, but I think it may be of some help. I had extensor tendonitis (the tendons/muscles that run down your shin and over the top of your foot to your toes) from running. It produced some pain in the top of my foot, between my toes, and some residual pain in the balls and arch of my foot. I did two full blog posts, one during the injury and one post injury, about treatments that helped get me running again. Regardless of whether you have ET, some of the treatments may help you get through the next couple weeks. If nothing else they’ll make you feel like you’re “doing something” to help your injury. Good luck! I hope you find something useful.



    • Hey Dave. Thanks for stopping by. And thanks for sharing your entries. I’ve been resting the foot for a week (that’s pretty much the prescription for everything, right?), and I think it’s helped.

  3. Yes, in the words of English propaganda, Keep Calm and Chill Out. That said, I know perfectly well the jitters that one gets when the taper starts and things just feel wrong. It’s happened to me several times. In fact, leading up to the New York Marathon last year, I couldn’t run more than four miles without acute pain in my left IT band. I thought I was doomed, that I’d have to somehow find a way from mile 4 in the middle of Brooklyn to the finish line.

    And though this might not help you, it definitely happens: magic (aka, adrenaline). It has happened to me several times before, but a nagging pain or borderline injury will suddenly disappear on race day. It’s not the best advice I can give, but I’ve known it to happen a lot. Call it mind-over-matter or simply your brain telling the rest of you that it’s game time. But don’t rule that out.

    In the absence of blind faith (about which I’d be the LAST person to preach), I’d say to stretch your legs out, roll them if you have a stick or foam roller, and take it easy. Lastly, I’d rather be too fresh leading into a marathon than overstressed. Taper madness is a real thing, so just breathe, take a few days off, slow it down and see how things go.

    • Somehow, your comment about not being about not being to run four miles without pain leading up the New York helped out a ton, Dan. I really think I just needed to chill out.

  4. Reminds me of the mini. I came down with a wicked sore throat and cold starting thursday night. By saturday morning I had full on body aches, sore throat, stuffed nose, and no energy. But my (two time ironman) buddy told me, “you’ve come too far for any of that to matter now. When you get to the race, you’ll be fine. Adrenaline will kick in and you won’t even remember being sick” … And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. By the time we hit mile 2, all my symptoms were gone, and I had a great race (the days after sucked bad).

    Point being, your body will try to play tricks on you to avoid the suffering it’s about to endure … but unless your legs litterally get cut off, you can relax. Any minor injury or pains you have will be taken care of by the massive amounts of adrenaline that the race will provide. So don’t sweat it.

    • I forgot you were sick the week of the mini! I gotta say, though, this taper has definitely screwed with my mental state.

  5. Glenn, you have put into words what almost all Pre-Marathoners have gone through. Remember, it could be phantom pain! Just keep rolling your foot on the icy bottle, stretch you IT band and enjoy the taper. Don’t try to build up anything (glutes, hamstrings , et.al.) The taper is supposed to be just that-a time to rest the legs and get ready for an experience of a lifetime. If you didn’t run at all the next week and half, you wouldn’t loose much training at all. It’s surprising how strong our bodies become during the training. So relax and chill out and icy roll!!

  6. You people are all crazy. No, I’m kidding. I have the greatest respect for what you do, tinged with a bit of jealousy, because I can barely walk, must less run. I’m in a different kind of battle with my body, trying (hard, very hard — and succeeding slowly but surely) to reduce its size (and hopefully avoid drastic knee and foot surgery down the road.)

    I can very much understand what Brad said about your body playing tricks on you. Your body says: “What are you trying to do to me? Think I can’t fight back? Think again, buster!” And you get pains. My body says: “What are you trying to do, starve me to death? I’ll fix that! I’ll make it twice as hard for you to lose two pounds this week!” But of course, when you do manage to stay calm and carry on, and you succeed, it’s sweeter than ever. And I can’t wait to hear how unbelievably proud you are when you cross that finish line in DC. Go, Glen, go!!!!

  7. I was always a raving bitch during taper. Hungry, cranky, antsy, just not pleasant to be around. It comes with the territory, only to be replaced with utter panic right before the race.

    • Ah…the joys of slowly going mad. I consider you good company, Kelly, so I’ll continue with my craziness.

  8. Taper MADNESS?? Come on Glenn, tapering is the best part of training! Your legs feel fresher, you have more energy, you don’t have to eat as much, and all of a sudden you have all this extra time to call your family or hang out with friends that you’ve cruelly neglected for the past 4 months. Embrace the taper. Live the taper. Love the taper.

    Good luck this weekend!

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