The Glorious Taper

lit-taperWhen most people (at least in church circles) think of “tapers” they envision beeswax candles, acolytes, and high altars. For marathoners the taper is something entirely different, though no less holy.

I’ve reached that vaulted stage of marathon training known as “The Taper.” Most of the mileage is behind me and I can now focus on letting my body heal and gain strength for race day. In my case, the Providence Marathon in Rhode Island on May 3rd.

The taper is all about easing off on the training and bumping up the rest. Oh, and eating lots of carbs. My favorite! While marathoners differ on the specifics of the taper, most look like what I’m doing this year: 22 miles three weeks before the race, 12 miles two weeks before (I did this today), 8 miles the week before, then 26.2 miles on race day. Those are the weekend “long runs” — shorter runs get mixed in during the last three weeks as well plus cross-training.

The problem is that marathoners never quite know what to do with themselves while tapering. We’re exercising less, eating more, and getting the pre-race jitters. This is a bad combination. Especially for our spouses who must put up with us in this state. Bryna usually just sends me to the refrigerator to eat something or drink some Gatorade if I start to drive her nuts.

There’s great freedom in the taper because there’s nothing else you can really do. If you’ve trained hard and prepared correctly, the marathon will take care of itself. The fact is, you can’t “cram” for an endurance race. You’re either prepared or you’re not. It’s the difference between “Godspeed” and “God’s judgment.”

But I find that there’s also a great sense of peace that takes over during the taper — since there’s nothing else I can do besides short workouts and annoying Bryna, I can let it all go. Sure, I’ll be anxious in the days leading up to the race but there’s nothing more I can do to get myself ready at this point. And that’s a nice feeling after the hundreds and hundreds of miles I’ve run to get to this point.

So, the taper continues. And here’s one (probably not) final plug to help me raise money for Episcopal Relief & Development: Donate now! Click here!

2 Comments on “The Glorious Taper”

  1. The Rev. Scott Slater, Diocese of Maryland says:

    Dear Tim,

    It’s great to read some of your stuff (especially running stuff). My last marathon was five years ago and I can so relate to much of what you write. I am finishing a “walk across the diocese” this week (320 miles total). Like walking a marathon 13 times in a row (though I have broken it into bits and pieces after the first six days across western Maryland). Anyway, keep on truckin’.

  2. Father Tim says:

    Thanks, Scott! I’ve been seeing pictures of your journey on the diocesan FB page. I’d love to hear more about the reaction, logistics, and what you feel you’ve been able to see/accomplish during this. Oh, and what your wife thinks.



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