The Taper!

On Saturday I ran 12 miles — my last “long run” before my half marathon.

I can’t believe I am DONE!

Well, I’m not really DONE; I still have to run a half marathon. Ha! But that 12 miles is almost as significant to me as running that 13.1 on September 15th.

Jo-Lynne running

You see, six months ago, a half marathon wasn’t even on my radar.

I’ve watched several friends train for their first half-marathons. I’ve read their updates and followed their journeys, but I had no desire to do one myself. The infamous long runs sounded grueling, and it all seemed completely unattainable.

Then a friend talked me into running the Rock and Roll Half this fall. To this day, I’m still not sure why I agreed to sign on. At that point, I had never run farther than 7 miles. Even when I bought my ticket and started researching training plans, I couldn’t imagine actually completing the process.

Once you say you’re going to run a half marathon, everyone starts coming out of the woodwork with advice. Evidently the half marathon is the new black.

The one piece of advice that I heard over and over was to follow my training plan to a T. Everybody promised that if I did that, I’d be fine on race day. So I printed out a training schedule, marked my calendar, and set out to stick to it like glue.

And somehow, I did. I hardly missed a single run in the entire 16-week training program, despite some nasty weather and my constant battle with plantar fasciitis (heel pain).

If you’ve been keeping up with my updates, you know that about halfway through my training, I seriously considered quitting. Not just because of my plantar fasciitis, but because I just wasn’t enjoying those long runs in the heat and humidity. I was kicking myself for deciding to train for a half-marathon in September and not one later in the fall when the weather would be more cooperative. For a short while, I wasn’t having fun anymore.

Then the weather took an unexpected turn for the better, and overall the rest of our summer has been fairly mild. I also found a few friends who became running partners, and that helped matters a TON. It is so much more fun, and the time goes SO much more quickly, when you have a friend to run with. I got my mojo back.

But the last two “long runs” were really hard. The heat and humidity returned, and to make matters worse, I had to run them alone. But I was determined, and I completed them both — one grueling mile at a time.

Completing my training plan is almost as momentous as completing the race itself. The training is the hard part — getting up before dawn; persevering when it is hot, cold, rainy, or muggy; battling the loneliness when there is no friend to keep you company; pushing through the pain of sore muscles, chafing, and injuries; enduring painful therapies to keep your body working for you; and taking time away from family to fit in those long runs. The race itself seems almost anticlimactic at this point. I feel like I’ve already accomplished what I set out to do.

Now it’s time to taper!

The last 2 weeks of any training plan includes a taper — where you reduce the volume and intensity of your workouts so you get to the starting line feeling ready to run. I’m definitely ready for the taper!!

After running 10, 11 and 12 miles, it’s a welcome relief to head out for 4 or 5. The goal is to take it easy and enjoy the runs, not worrying about time or pacing. Add to that, fall weather has just arrived here in Eastern PA so I’m a happy camper!

A few days ago, I set out to run just three easy miles. I put the kids on the bus, laced up my sneakers, and set out along my favorite path. The sun was shining, but not too hot. There was a light breeze, but not too harsh. Three miles passed in no time, and when I got home, I spent extra time stretching and icing my feet.

I feel like I’ve already made it. I know the half marathon will be a challenge, but I am confident that I’m ready. I’m thankful that I’ve already done 12. What’s one more mile, after all??