The Richmond Register

Community News Network

October 23, 2013

On your mark. Get set. Wait!

As if it wasn't stressful enough to check the weather, over and over, every single waking hour of every single day. And worry about whether someone at work has a cold or, my God, something more contagious. And keep an eye on all those acorns that have begun to litter the ground - a person could slip on one of those, twist an ankle, and all that hard work would go right down the drain.

On top of all that, Beth Graham had to live with the threat that Sunday's Marine Corps Marathon would be canceled altogether because of the government shutdown.

Didn't Congress know that Graham was tapering? How much is one woman expected to take?

"You work so long for one day, and it's hard to think something like illness or weather or the government can ruin what you're working for," she said.

If you've noticed more than the usual population of cranky, antsy, obsessive people in the running world this week, there is an explanation: Thousands of runners are winding down their training for the 38th running of Washington's most famous marathon. In running vernacular it's called "tapering."

It's that period two to three weeks before the big race when runners begin to sharply cut back on their mileage, resting their legs for the big day. Their bodies heal, but their nerves take a beating.

Runners preparing to cover 26.2 miles spend several months getting used to rising before dawn four or five times a week, putting in 50-mile weeks, enjoying the freedom to eat what they want and savoring the endorphin rush that accompanies all that exercise. Then they have to cut back, quickly.

It's as if someone stole your morning coffee, every day for two or three weeks. You might not kill him over it, but you'd consider it. Robbed of their favorite pastime, runners brood about losing fitness, gaining weight, injuring themselves and race day weather, to name just a few of their favorite obsessions.

"I hate it," said Graham, a 30-year-old defense contractor from Fairfax, Va. Her husband isn't wild about it either.

Rich Edson, a 32-year-old Washington correspondent for the Fox Business Network who is training for his first marathon, agreed. "I'm getting anxious and I'm getting nervous," he said. "I want to train more. I want to go out [running] more. But fortunately, I'm working quite a lot."

"This is really my first experience with tapering," he added. "I've read enough to have no idea what I'm doing . . . It's so difficult to hold yourself back when you're just pushing, pushing, pushing all the time, and learning to enjoy it."

In his training bible "Marathon," longtime coach and marathoner Hal Higdon polled his readers, asking whether "taper madness" is real. Seventy-five percent said it is.

"There is no real cure," Higdon advised. "Cross-training is not the answer. Going on an eating binge as a mood reliever is a very bad idea. Using the extra time to reconnect with your spouse might be the best choice, unless your spouse is running the marathon too."

Graham's husband, David, is not running the marathon. (Though he is cheerleader-in-chief. His inside jokes on big posters keep her going during marathons.) So he is calm when his otherwise normal wife turns a tad compulsive during her taper.

"I focus on the logistics of the race," she said. "Familiarize myself with water stops, the timing of where I need to be when. I read a lot of race reports.

"I check the weather. I really like the hourly forecast. But it's a little too soon," she said last week, the disappointment evident in her voice.

"Last year I ran [the] Outer Banks [marathon] and there was the hurricane. That added a whole new layer of weather obsession." Sandy hit New Jersey and New York instead, sparing the marathon.

Part of the problem is that distance runners tend to be a little OCD to begin with. They accumulate months of data on miles, pace and calories on their Garmin wristwatch GPS devices or their iPhones. They leave few details to chance.

Before the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, Pa., "I can't tell you how many times I called the hotel to say 'Am I going to have a king bed or two queen beds? And am I going to have a refrigerator?,' " Graham remembered. Before she eats her yogurt, she checks to make sure it's not hiding something nasty. Several days before a 50-kilometer race two years ago, she came down with shingles. She ran anyway. "It probably wasn't my best decision," she admitted.

Then there are those pesky acorns on Virginia's W&OD trail, where Graham likes to train.

"All it would take is one perfectly placed acorn and you're down for the count," she said.

Again, Graham isn't like this when she isn't tapering. She leads a normal life. She has a good job at the Pentagon and a cat. She's co-leader of the Vienna-Oakton chapter in Virginia of "MomsRUN This Town," a nationwide running group for women. Her chapter has 500 members.

With the government shutdown resolved, the Marine Corps Marathon will go on as planned. So if you see Graham, or any other thin, intense-looking people dressed head-to-toe in running gear around Washington this week, give them a wide berth.

"It's a very stressful time," she said.

 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 4.42.47 PM.png VIDEO: Leopard attacks crowd in India

    A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 22, 2014

  • In cuffs... 'Warlock' in West Virginia accused of sexual assault

    Police in West Virginia say a man claiming to be a “warlock” used promises of magical spells to lure children into committing sexual acts with him.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cats outsmart the researchers

    I knew a lot had been written about dogs, and I assumed there must be at least a handful of studies on cats. But after weeks of scouring the scientific world for someone - anyone - who studied how cats think, all I was left with was this statement, laughed over the phone to me by one of the world's top animal cognition experts, a Hungarian scientist named Ádám Miklósi.

    April 22, 2014

  • McCain 1 House Republicans are more active on Twitter than Democrats

    Your representative in the House is almost certainly on Twitter. Your senator definitely is. But how are they using the social network? Are Democrats more active than Republicans, or vice versa? Who has the most followers on the Hill?

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Do your genes make you procrastinate?

    Procrastinators, in my experience, like nothing better than explaining away their procrastination: General busyness, fear of failure, and simple laziness are just a handful of the excuses and theories often tossed around. Now researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have added another option to the list: genetics.

    April 21, 2014

  • Do White Castle prices tell us anything about the minimum wage?

    The paper looked at how many delicious steamed sliders the minimum wage has been able to purchase over time. The point is that as it notes, in 1981, the $3.35 minimum could buy a whole dozen. Today, at $7.25, it could purchase just 10.

    April 21, 2014

  • VIDEO: Moose charges snowmobile, flees after warning shot

    While snowmobiling in New England, Bob and Janis Powell of Maine were charged by a moose and caught the entire attack on camera.

    April 21, 2014

  • Can Hillary Clinton rock the cradle and the world?

    What's most interesting to contemplate is the effect becoming a grandmother will have on Hillary's ambition. It's one of life's unfairnesses that a woman's peak career years often coincide with her peak childbearing years.

    April 21, 2014

  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 18, 2014

AP Video
Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly Pipeline Opponents Protest on National Mall Hagel Gets Preview of New High-tech Projects S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter New Yorkers Celebrate Cherry Blossom Blooms SCOTUS Hears Tv-over-Internet Case Justice Dept. Broadening Criteria for Clemency Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers 'Miss Meadows' Takes Holmes Back to Her Roots Biden: Russia Must Stop Talking, Start Acting David Moyes Out As Manchester United Manager Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet Stowaway Teen Forces Review of Airport Security
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should Richmond rezone the southwest corner of Main Street and Tates Creek Avenue to B-1 (Neighborhood Business) with restrictions to allow construction of a financial services office?

Yes
No
     View Results