From the Race Director’s Desk: Taper, Don’t Cram

As the final weeks count down to race day, both organizers and participants feel the pressure mounting.

Members of my staff and operations committee tell me stories about waking up in the middle of the night suddenly remembering a certain sign or piece of equipment that they still need to order.  The increasing stress level can threaten office relations as everybody races to wrap up the final details.  It seems the phone rings constantly and last-minute request emails flood in endlessly.

Meanwhile, the number of runners and their regularity out training on local roads becomes noticeable.  Maybe it’s a factor of Spring finally arriving to the frigid Midwest.  I suspect, though, that many of them are realizing they have only weeks left and they feel very much behind in their originally-planned training schedule.

All of this reminds me of college.  Some students would drag their feet all year and have to suffer through sleepless nights as finals approached, trying to cram in a semester’s worth of reading and study into a two-week period.  Some students with high energy levels could pull this off.

This approach doesn’t work so well in running or in race organizing.  A student may be able to “cram” a lot of facts into their heads for a few days and muddle through their exams.  A runner can’t get away with this.  You can’t “cram” miles and aerobic conditioning into your body in a short amount of time.  It takes a lot of time and dedication to earn the right to arrive at the finish line.  With only two weeks left, a runner should be tapering, reducing their mileage so that their body can rest and recover from months of hard conditioning.

As for me and my staff, I can assure you we’re not cramming.  The shirts and medals are here.  The Operations Manual is printed.  The public safety committee and operations team leaders are prepared and have everything they need to take charge of their areas on race weekend.  In short, we too are tapering.  After all, we’ve had a whole year to prepare so there’s no good excuse for cramming.  Bring on race day!

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