There’s a line in the film Braveheart where Mel Gibson a.k.a. William Wallace a.k.a. Son of Scotland is holding the line as a wave of English soldiers on horseback bear down on him and his men. He has done the preparation ahead of the battle and is lying in wait with big sharp feck off 10 foot wooden poles that at the very last moment he’ll call his men to pull up and impale the English cavalry. As they get closer and closer at alarming pace he starts to shout ‘Hold!!! Hold!!! Hold!!!’ That’s kind of like tapering.
Of course, I am not referring to the impaling of your enemies at the last moment but the holding part. I am referring to the ‘hold!!!’
Tapering is difficult. The first week it is the best thing ever. You’ve worked you back-side off and the prospect of taking it easy is like a tropical island at sunset with good company and a cool bottle of beer. Heaven.
Week two and you begin to go stir crazy. Your body is screaming for miles and to be occupied and all you are meant to give it at most is the same amount of days out on the road but with much reduced workload.
By the weekend before the marathon you just want to take off and push the body out. You feel your fitness must be surely slipping away with every passing day that you are not out on the road or in the field pushing yourself. Every food you eat that isn’t pure healthy is an insult to the months of marathon miles and no amount of core work can prevent you from feeling pure guilty. It is at this stage that the runners and the road start to call you. It is at this stage you begin believing that a couple of tough sessions in the taper will be of no harm. It is at this stage that 8 miles into your last 8 mile run, or 10 miles in to your last 10 mile run or 12 miles in to your last 12 mile run is not enough and a few more won’t make a difference.
At this point you need to remember Mel’s words of wisdom “Hold!!! Hold!!! Hold!!!”. The oncoming English cavalry is the marathon and you have done the preparation so be brave and have patience until race day. Nothing you will do over your taper will make you any fitter, it can only make you less fit. You need to rest. You need to be ready. You need to hold and come Sunday morning 9.00 pm next week raise up your sticks and fight.