Why Tapering is Like Yoga

I am struggling right now. It’s about control, letting go and just letting things just be. I have to “taper” leading up to my second Marine Corps Marathon next weekend. For non-runners, tapering the latter portion of a training plan for a longer race where you run less miles and rest a lot. Usually spans three weeks. You are supposed take your longest training run three weeks before the “big race” and then back off! According to most training plans, in the next week, I should only run once or twice for 4-6 miles runs and maybe take a short walk.

Runners notoriously have an issue with tapering, especially after they spend so many months increasing their mileage and pushing that wall where the body wants to stop. I have been running between 20-40 miles per week for the past two months. It’s physically hard, believe it or not, to slow waaayyy down. My legs begin to wonder what it going on. They get “itchy.”

But I think the mental part is even harder. Because there truly is nothing else that can be done at this point change the outcome of the race. Of course, I can get more sleep, eat smart, hydrate a ton and all of that. But the physical part is over. I can’t turn back time and run more miles. I can’t. Turn. Back. Time. Sound familiar?

For this marathon, I trained in a shorter time period because of an injury. I couldn’t start training until early August. Generally, you are supposed to run 3-5 times per week to train for a marathon and one of those should be long. After building my base up with 10, 12, 14-mile runs, I succeeded in four truly long training runs: 16, 22, 18 and then a 15-mile Ragnar weekend. Also, this year I have increased my mid-week, mid-length runs. I’ve completed one 10-mile and four 8-mile mid-week runs in addition to at least one shorter-distance run each week. This is much better than last year, when I was lazy with my mid-length runs only doing about about 4-6 miles for those. And now I’m just supposed to stop?! Just wait and trust that the training I’ve done will be enough? Running experts say no more long runs at this point because that might create fatigue or injury leading up to the race. You don’t want to go in to a marathon while in any sort of “recovery” mode. Especially for a physical, kinesthetic learner like me, that’s really really hard.

Trust your training, they say. Let go? Don’t worry and fret even when so much has been invested? To me, it’s like jumping off a cliff!

But it’s a lot like yoga.

Yoga asks us and teaches us to listen to and trust our bodies. Be in the present moment. Don’t look back or forward! You can’t turn back time. So why keep looking back there? And you really don’t know what will happen during the race, so stop looking to the future. Stay in the moment. Surrender. Breathe.

Right now, I have to make myself believe that running nearly 300 miles since August will be enough. That my body will carry me. I don’t have a choice!
But I also take comfort in these words from the Bhagavad Gita: “There is nothing lost or wasted in this life.”

If I can look at all those miles like practice. Nothing is wasted. Just as no practice is wasted. You fall out of tree pose. Or need to take child’s pose for a while. You try again. Even if I don’t make it across the finish line this year. Nothing is lost. It has trained my body and mind for something else, perhaps.

So deep deep breaths. Let go of controlling or trying to change the outcome. Wait and see. See where my body takes me this time. Trust that the miles that have churned under my feet since August will be enough, for this weekend or for something else that s upcoming. Nothing is wasted.