Tapering, Butterflies and Phantom Pains – What fun….. (edited repost from 2011)

It’s about a two weeks before race day and all of the team members are completing their first week of tapering.  One would think that getting more rest and running less miles would make a runner feel great.  The truth is tapering isn’t fun.  Butterflies about the race can’t be avoided.  Questions and doubts about the training plan; am I really ready?  Why do I feel sluggish with little energy?  Do I have the right nutrition plan for raceday?  Did I get a good test run of my nutrition plan during my last 20 miler?  How am I getting to Hopkinton?  Do I really need to get on the bus down town at 7AM when my wave starts at 11:25?  Should I  have bought a new pair of running shoes?  What am I going to wear and what is Mother Nature going to bring us for weather?  Now that we are within 15 days of the race, we all have Weather.com for Hopkinton bookmarked in our Blackberries and iPhones so that we can check the forecast at least 15 times/day right up until race day morning.

Finally, why do I now have pains that I’ve never felt before?    These Phantom pains are the new pains occurring in the knee, foot, back, hip, or any other body part that arises out of nowhere. These pains are not associated with any previous running injury, nor did they ever occur during training.

Researchers believe that these phantom pains are part of the body’s repair and rejuvenation process. Tapering fosters tissue repair at the microscopic level and the repair process can cause muscle twitches, cramps, and even pain, as the body heals. With overall mileage reduced, no high levels of endorphins are on board to mask these symptoms.

Rest assured as the gun goes of at 11:25 AM for the start of wave 4 of the 2014 Boston Marathon, all of the butterflies, aches, pains and anxiety will vanish. It will take 6-10 minutes to hit the starting line once the gun goes off.  We will use this time to take in the magic of Hopkinton.  We will run with our patient partners proudly displayed on our chests, energizing us for the 26.2 mile treck to Boston.  It will undoubtedly be a very special day for the entire marathon team.

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4 comments on “Tapering, Butterflies and Phantom Pains – What fun….. (edited repost from 2011)
  1. Faraz Ali says:

    Phil, thanks for posting this … I did not know about “phantom pains”. I have definitely experienced small twitches and pains in my legs in these last few weeks, and was concerned that I had done something bad to them … helpful to know that is not the case! As you correctly point out, there are all sorts of sources of nervousness in these final few days (at this point, hours), and that is one less thing to have to worry about 🙂

  2. jackp says:

    Do be careful with phantom pains though. The stress of the 20 miler can surface weaknesses for the first time in the subsequent week. A 2 month layoff injury in last year’s marathon surfaced in my training diary on this day a year ago (“left ankle feels slightly stiff in front”).

    See a physical therapist for even minor issues as you don’t want compensation for it to lead to other issues. They can give up immediate drills/stretching that will help. If you haven’t gone for deep tissue massage, treat yourself — you’ve earned it — and it can get you legs loosened up.

  3. Emma Rooney says:

    Deep tissue massage is amazing but don’t be trying anything new at the last minute (same goes for face masks, shaving creams, gel chips, compression socks, visualization techniques etc.) You still have a bit of time but not at the last minute. Now that you’re tapering you might find that you have too much time on your hands to search Amazon for the perfect fix (trust your training instead). Your career as a runner has a future and you can pick something new up on Tuesday after the marathon instead.

  4. Kristen Legendre says:

    I totally forgot about Phantom Pains! Thank you! You really hit the nmail on the head with this. Tapering is rough…

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  1. […] training to any little niggles or aches. If you’re anything like me you might get phantom injuries during your taper week before the race that tend to  materialise but if you’ve been paying […]

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