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 Washington area 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. 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.