Hoka Highland Fling blog 14: Taper time

Originally posted on Runner’s World

In the fourteenth week of her training, our Online News Ed Rhalou runs her last long run before the big day.


Against the odds I have successfully made it through 14 weeks of training for the Hoka Highland Fling, which means it’s time to taper! But this also means there’s just over a week until race day, so the pressure is on. Week 14 was a brutal one and for the first time in my training I was forced to stop and listen to my body instead of resolutely following the plan.

The training plan stipulated some strength and conditioning work, 90 minutes at long pace, two rest days, a 10 miler at easy pace and a 32-mile run the following day. Although I’m generally in good shape, I was still feeling tender from the back-to-back 15 milers the week before and my right glute was a bit angry, so the prospect of running 32 miles in one go filled me with dread.

Terrified I would further agitate my bum by running so far at the weekend, on Wednesday I went to visit my old friend Simon Lamb. He runs his sports massage clinic Six Seconds High from his home in Teddington, which is a bit of a hike, but definitely worth the journey. I credit Lamb with bringing me back from injury following a muscle tear a couple of years ago, so I knew he would be the man for the job. A former chef, Lamb has fingers like plutonic rock and an hour on his massage table is definitely the most painful process I have ever endured. But those monster fingers are also made of magic, and thanks to a good rub down (and some incredibly painful elbow action) I left Teddington feeling ready for action.

Friend in need

However, based on the amount of time it took me to recover from the previous week’s running, I still felt unsure about taking on a 32-mile run only two weeks before race day. Reluctant to mess up my training plan, I decided to speak to the experts. As luck would have it my ultra afficianado friend Rhona McKinnon was in town, so I went for a little city run with her, alongside my lovely girlfriends Cat SimpsonLaura Stewart and Jen Slater. Over post run beers the girls offered there sage ultra marathon advice and put my mind at ease. At times like these I am so grateful to have the support and encouragement of my amazing running friends, all of whom I met through the wonderful world of Twitter.

Listen to your body

I won’t tell you everything we discussed (it was girl time) but the general consensus was that 32 miles two weeks before race day was a huge undertaking and if I ran that far I not only risked further agitating my right buttock, but completely exhausting myself for race day. Rhona also maintained she’s never ran that much further than a marathon in training for the Fling, and if anyone knows how to run that race it is most definitely her. The advice she gave me that really stuck though was listen to my body. If I felt like it I should run all day long, then go hell for leather, but what’s the point in adding extra mileage just to exhaust myself? Surely running quality miles made more sense.

The last long run

Armed with their sage advice ringing in my ears and a determination not to mess things up at this vital stage in the game, I met my friend Ed for our long run the following morning and vowed to listen to my body. And then it started raining. Not one to let a bit of inclement weather put me off my game I ploughed on through and together with Ed we ran from London Bridge to Richmond Park.

Upon arrival the weather rewarded us for our efforts and the sun came out. With its gentle pathways, lush woodland and wild deer, Richmond Park is gorgeous in the sunshine and I could have kicked myself for not doing more of my training there. We ran about 20 miles together before I decided to call it a day and head for an all day breakfast at the local café. I feel like I made the right decision and my body is definitely grateful for going easy on myself. But I’m also a bit nervous that I haven’t covered enough miles and hope this doesn’t bite me on the (already temperamental) arse come race day.

Taper time

There’s nothing I can do now but sit back, relax and enjoy the taper. Sadly this is easier said than done. Tapering is a tough time for any race. I usually rely on long runs to calm my whirring brain, but that’s the one thing I’m not supposed to do, so my mind starts to play tricks on me. Have I run enough? Will a little hill session make a difference now? Surely sitting around eating spaghetti in my pants all day can’t be good for my training?

If you have any tips for combating taper madness, I would love to hear from you. Tweet me your #tapertips @Rhalou




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