the marathon harvest season


the last six months i've been coaching my sister for her first marathon and now she only has four days to go. she's been tapering the last two weeks and has impressed me with her calm but now she's close enough to feel the heat of the fire and she's starting to sweat. i had to calm her down today when all the pent up anxiety started pushing against the fences of her mind.
for the past couple of weekends, thousands have gathered and crossed their respective finish lines. over the several following weekends, thousands more will do the same. if you're in that first group then congrats. it was thrilling, wasn't it? i have no wisdom to impart that you haven't already experienced or figured out. if you're part of the second lot then you too are somewhere in the taper zone and entering that final stage. there's still time to salvage your sanity.
the taper is an essential part of marathon training and there are dozens of theories on how and when to do it. i'm not going to get into it because each person is unique and what worked for me may not work for you. plus, i'm not going to pretend that having run a few marathons makes me some kind of expert - even those who coach or run them for living will admit there's no secret sauce. that's the nature of the beast. what I will offer are some words of advice on the psychology of the taper. and since running a marathon is eighty percent mental, these aren't just pearls, they're precious gems.
as you may have noticed, i like to speak in metaphors - i'm the mr. miyagi of running, dear grasshoppers. i like to paint pictures with my words. but i also like to be allusive. some things are best figured out and i think you're smart. (don't worry, my analogies are not very complex. i'm not that clever.) so allow me to share my very basic farming knowledge because the season is right and well, i love the fall. so yeah, the harvest.
the harvest marks the end of the growing season. soon after the last frost, the land is prepared; tilling the soil and removing weeds. this early phase is tedious but necessary. the ground needs thawing from the sleepy winter and your legs need turning over. it becomes rote at a point and you don't think of it much. like eating or breathing, getting out for a run becomes habitual. once the field is cleared, the land needs enrichment so, the soil is fertilized with various nutrients: hill repeats, tempos runs, fartleks, and speed intervals. the seeds are sown. with time and dutiful irrigation, they begin to germinate and grow.
now let's pretend it's a small tract and we're farming in the 1800's because i'm a romantic at heart and we're doing this by hand. no heavy machinery. so we gather up our tools: sickle, pitchfork, sack, and wide brimmed hat - always a wide brimmed hat (you've got to dress the part) - and march onto the field. at some point, you'll need each of those tools. some of them are sharp, so let's call them weapons. there are demons in those fields and they'll try to scare you away from your task. don't listen. pull out that hand scythe and swipe them away. it's hard labor, you'll get exhausted, you're muscle will burn with fatigue but you need to do it. the yield will nourish you throughout the winter. food for the soul. so you forge on, raking up the crops you have felled. At the end of the day, your sack is full and crates are heaping. no matter how long it took, how efficient you were, or how good you looked doing it, you did it.
and that's how i handle the taper. i recount all the work i put in, inventory my tools, and i visualize my success. you've done all the work. the hay is in the barnafter months of tending to your plot, the crop matured and now the time has finally come to harrow the field. you've prepared the land, you've sharpened your tools, now is the time to reap. if that doesn't have your adrenaline pumping, then we are at odds because i'm not even racing and my stomach just did a flip.



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