by Dante Zappala
The value of not doing something so that you can do it better is lost on me. My running shoes are stewing in bitterness at being left in the closet just as the nicest days of the year arrive. I’m irritable, anxious and convincing myself that I’m falling out of shape by the minute.
The taper has arrived like a lion. This is supposed to be the time to rest up, restock and focus. Instead, it’s left me believing there’s a conspiracy theory in play to drive me insane.
Every piece of solid running advice you will find tells you to taper down before a big race. Cut mileage at the very least. Various percentages are suggested, upwards of 50 to 75 percent of your normal miles. The effort to stick to that plan has robbed me of the single element that I rely on for my sense of well-being: control.
I’m out of time to do anything that can actively help me. Any hard training I might do now would not improve my fitness ahead of the marathon (it usually takes 10-15 days to realize the benefits of a workout). And it would further detract from the effort to get to the starting line completely rested and ready.
So I’ve shuttered my instincts and taken it on faith that all that can be done is done. I just need to resist the urges.
Running is often called an addiction. It’s possible that you can get physically hooked on the endorphins your body releases during running. Certainly, mentally, it clearly becomes a dependency for many people. For people on the outside looking in, it’s not surprising that they typically claim to “not get it,” or “not be able to imagine” what running these distances means. It’s rather like watching a Pentecostal speak in tongues. It’s amazing to witness, but hard to conceive of doing yourself.
This is exactly why I feel like I’m going through a detox, like I’m weaning off. I’m slowly coming back to something I had long since abandoned: normalcy.
But staring at me up ahead is a great challenge: the premiere marathon in the world, a legendary course I have heard tales about but never run. I should be doing more at this moment than eating sweet potatoes for breakfast. I should be preparing armor.
We have to release what we love. We’ve done it with girlfriends or boyfriends who we thought we might die without. We’ll do it again with our children as they grow and start clearing their own path ahead. We must do these things because it’s inherent in the lifecycle. Eventually, we will be released – to what, to whom, I cannot tell you.
More and more, as we advance in medicine and possibly in social services to help aging in place, that release is a slow taper. As much as some of us might boast that we want to go out with a bang, it’s most likely going to be a faded whisper.
Has each phase of the training prepared us for what it will feel like to lose control? Will we be able to trust that the work we did was enough? How will we measure such a thing? What if no one hears those quiet whispers at the end?
Time is as eternal as it is fleeting and forgotten. Moments happen. Perhaps they accumulate, perhaps they go unnoticed. Great legacies can be built and then brushed away with no witnesses, no awareness whatsoever. Fairness doesn’t exist in that regard.
Yet we still strive to assess value. We still fight with fury to quantify and validate our efforts. We still hope to run a time we’re proud of.
At 10 a.m. Monday, April 20, the gun went off on Hopkinton Street. Small parts of history were written for thousands of people. May those stories be told. And may they be kept.