The last few weeks of marathon training always fool with me. They're like that prankster in grade school who thinks it's hilarious to pull out a chair from underneath you then laugh maniacally while you lie on the ground clutching your tailbone. Simply put, the last few weeks of marathon training are pure evil. If something goes wrong, you can bet your kids' college funds the last few weeks of marathon training have something to do with it.
Usually it's not until the taper when they really start messing with you. You've survived the worst of the training and the end is in sight. All you've got to do is run a few miles here and there to keep your legs fresh, the kind of workouts you can do in your sleep. You can guiltlessly eat and sleep in copious amounts and just put your feet up until the day comes when a measly 26.2 miles are on the schedule. But that's the cue for the last few weeks of marathon training to move in and stir up some trouble. You start feeling anxious about not running as much or as long. Little niggling worries and doubts take hold in your head like a thistle in a patch of weeds. And of course, the most cunning trick of the last few weeks of marathon training: the phantom injuries. The ache in your calf you wake up with one morning that you've never felt before. The sore ankle you notice when all you've been doing is keeping the couch warm. It takes very little pain to throw you into a wild state of panic.
Oh, the clever and wily ways of the last few weeks of marathon training.
I've fallen prey to them time and again and this training round is no different. Except this time it was with a twist. The last few weeks of marathon training must have realized I was onto them and their insidious ruse because they went out of their way to throw me a curve ball-- even employing the help of an outside and equally shrewd force.
The other night, on a day when I hadn't even run, I felt a tingle in the middle toe on my right foot. My toes have certainly been a source of trouble the last few months, what with shedding their nails and all, but this was a different sensation. Instinctively, I looked down to see my toe was noticeably red and swollen.
"Last few weeks of marathon training!", I instantly hissed.
Sure enough, upon further inspection, my toe hurt. I poked and prodded to survey the extent of the damage and sure enough, it hurt a lot. I began mentally backtracking what'd I'd done in the last 24 hours that could have possibly caused my toe to behave this way and I couldn't think of a single thing. I hadn't stubbed it on anything; I hadn't stepped on anything. And it'd been days since I kicked any stray cats. I was truly perplexed.
The next morning when I swung my feet around to get out of bed to run, I stood up and nearly crumpled. I let out a moan as the pain traveled six feet from the nerves in my foot up to the nerves in my brain.
"That the best you got?", I taunted the last few weeks of marathon training as I defiantly laced up my running shoes. Without hesitation, I headed out the door and ran six miles of speedwork drills while ignoring the occasional needle stabs that were going on within my sock.
Apparently, that pissed the last few weeks of marathon training off big time. I barely made it to work that day. When my boss (a chiropractor) took a look at my toe and pulled on it, I came within just millimeters of knocking his teeth out of his head with my knee.
I went to bed that night pretty sure I had a broken toe. With a new respect for the last few weeks of marathon training, I begged for forgiveness and promised to acknowledge and subject myself to its majesty for the remainder of my days if only I was spared to be capable of running my marathon.
The next morning, the pain was gone. Completely gone. I would have suspected it was all a bad dream if my toe wasn't still a little red and swollen. It ocurred to me not long aftewards that it was never a broken toe at all but most likely a bad spider bite that nearly brought me to my knees begging the last few weeks of marathon training for mercy.
Humility is a humbling thing.
I have no mind to tempt the last few weeks of marathon training again, especially now that after one more long training run this weekend I'm officially starting my taper. I possess no such reverence for its shady wingmen, however. The next spider I see in my house will not get the customary swirl job in the toilet. Oh no. I'll be pinning the repugnant arachnid on a piece of cardboard and pulling its eight legs off its body one at a time while I watch it squirm. Nobody messes with me during the last few weeks of marathon training.
Except, of course, the last few weeks of marathon training.