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taper: energy, emotions, and eliud

With only two weeks left until the Dublin Marathon the taper begins. Normally at this stage of marathon training I take the foot off the gas and start to drop the miles and the effort. That however has not been the basis for this year of experiments and nor did it find its way into taper time.

Typically, two weeks out, I would run somewhere between 14 and 16 miles. Perhaps with a few miles at the end near to marathon pace. That’s sound reasoning, concentrating on freshness and preserving the body as best possible. Given that sound reasoning was questioned all year, it comes as no surprise that I meddled again. I figured an 18-mile experiment of sorts. A nice run with 10 miles therein below marathon pace would be the ideal replacement for my norm!


The format of the run was 18 miles, 3-mile warm-up, 4 miles sub-pace, 2 miles easy, 6 miles sub-pace, and a 3-mile cool down. Still pushing hard for the retention of double-digit sub-pace miles in the long run – the ambitious ‘new normal’. I’m not tagging this run as an experiment – I’m not sure why at the moment. It could be because I’ve kinda run it before (Experiment Four). Or it could be that it’s really just a minor tweak on my verified race ready strategy. Being 18 miles, shorter than last week’s run, I knew I’d get through it without incident. Still, it was vitally important to finish this fresh and brimming with confidence. Even during taper, things can take a hold on negative thoughts.

a bit different to my usual taper but confidence building too – more importantly, fresh at the end also
a bit different to my usual taper but confidence building too – more importantly, fresh at the end also

I took a while to find rhythm this morning. There was a nice, gradual build in the pace for the warm-up miles. However, tackling the 4-mile interval, the watches were bouncing around on pace for a few miles. I don’t know if it was us or if there was something happening with the signal. Variations in pace just seemed too erratic for it to be our legs causing it.

Another technology fail today was my chest strap. Looks like a dead battery which means that I don’t trust the heart rate data uploaded from the wrist sensor. There is a chunk of Zone 5 activity also that I don’t believe to be true. This belief is based on how I was feeling throughout the run. Yes, it mostly occurred in the 6-mile interval. However, it was from the start of the interval onwards when I was fresh following the easy 2-mile segment. There was also a little Zone 5 in the cool down segment.

a suspicious start with negative performance condition and I assume bad heart rate data from the wrist sensor
a suspicious start with negative performance condition and I assume bad heart rate data from the wrist sensor
not going to dwell on this – I don't believe there was that much if any Zone 5 today
not going to dwell on this – I don’t believe there was that much if any Zone 5 today

post mortem

Looking at the data, ignoring heart rate readings due to the chest strap failure, I judge the run on feel alone. It didn’t feel bad at all. In fact, it felt good, very good. While running sub-pace intervals we still set a pace zone so that things don’t get too crazy. A pace range between 7:15 and 7:30 per mile is the target zone. We stuck to it pretty rigidly until the last mile of the 6-mile interval. For some reason, without conscious decision, we dropped it to a sub-7 mile at this point. It still felt good though.

Having ‘the chats’, running longer intervals and faster than ever before during this type of training. At the same time being observant of the need to cool down properly. While every long run takes something out of you, any prolonged distance on your feet must do, it’s hard to say that I’ve regularly been under stress each weekend. In fact, I can pinpoint the lesser set of experimental efforts were lessons were learned. Even when things didn’t go 100% according to a desired outcome it was rarely a write-off. It’s an exciting place to be at the start of taper and heading into the marathon.


We started our run this morning at 0700h Irish time (GMT+1). It would be remiss to finish this post without mentioning a parallel event that happened while we ran. In Vienna at 0715h, Eliud Kipchoge started with his team of pacers an attempt to break the 2-hour barrier for the marathon. An experiment conducted as part of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge. Two hours and twenty minutes after we set off, we returned to the cars and checked the phone… Eliud had done it – 1:59:40 – 20 seconds under the barrier. History made. I am so happy that Eliud has been the one to make this happen. Proving his own words: no human is limited. It is an inspiration.

For years, reading books, following the previous Nike Breaking2 Project, I believed that we would see this not just in our lifetime but in the near future. I also guessed it would be unofficially so. The psychological barrier of running a sub-2 marathon has been obliterated. There are still barriers to seeing this happen in an official way. Eliud is the greatest marathon runner of all time – that is beyond argument. However, when he broke the world record in Berlin 2018 following the outcome of the Breaking2 Project, it only took 12 months for Kenenisa Bekele to come within 2 seconds of that world record this year. Life and athletes find a way.

Ed Caesar talks about breaking a 2-hour barrier in official competition in his excellent book Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon. A lot of money is earned, setting world records. It would be a great runner but a foolish professional that takes 2 minutes off at a time. Today we witnessed history made. The competitive sub-2 will happen in our lifetime now because of the path that Eliud and the INEOS 1:59 team have blazed. The question is how many world records lie between now and the eventual sub-2 WR?

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