You’ve pushed through tired legs on your long runs, taken to the track or hills to work on your speed. you’ve put more miles through your shoes compare to your car for the last few months. So when does your taper begin? Three weeks to go until the big race, all the hard work is done, right?
Well, yes and no.
While all the physical work is in the bag, ensuring success on race day requires special attention the marathon taper. The marathon taper is a delicate balance of maintaining fitness while promoting recovery. The following is a step-by-step guide to making sure you get the marathon taper right.
Three weeks out:
- Reduce weekly mileage to 85-90% of you maximum.
Simple maths really…! For example, if you’re running 50 miles per week, you only need to cut out 7 miles from your weekly running routine (15%). This can be done by giving yourself an extra rest day or by simply cutting out 2 or 3 miles from your regular recovery runs.
- Maintain intensity
Dont drastically cut your program coming close to the Marathon. If you’ve been training well for 16 to 20 weeks your body will be in great shape and this sudden change may disrupt its now familiar routine. If you begin this too early it would also take away another potentially great training session, so starting this 13 days out is perfect.
Make sure that your session is specific to the marathon – you don’t need any speed sessions at this point. The workout should be similar to what you’ve been doing the rest of your training plan (i.e. no need to get nervous and think you need to blast the best workout of your life). Don’t try make up for lost miles.
- Reduce long run volume by 10 to 20%
You don’t need to completely eliminate the long run yet, but you do want to avoid making yourself too tired. If your longest run so far was 20 miles, I suggest a run anywhere from 16 to 18 miles. However, listen to your body. If you feel tired, have the confidence to cut the long run back and give your body what its asking for.
Two weeks out:
- Reduce weekly mileage to 70 of maximum:
SO again taking 50 miles as your maximum distance covered a week, reduce this to a 35 mile week. Your long run will be shorter and your intense workouts, which should be your biggest volume days, will also be reduced. With no long run and less intense workouts, your easy recovery miles should remain relatively stable or minus only a mile or two.
- One medium intensity workout.
Your last intense training before the marathon should be early on in this week. Again the distance covered in this is reduced in comparison to your max running session. For example, if your tempo intervals usually total 9 miles, this workout should be about 6 miles in total distance (30%). This is a good opportunity for you to practice marathon pace.
- Reduce long run by 50 to 60%
You can’t gain any fitter! You can tire yourself out. If you’re feeling fatigued, don’t hesitate to back off the distance. This run is more so keeping your body in routine.
One week out:
1. Reduce your mileage,
This is probably going to be the hardest part of your training.. Actually accepting what you have done is enough. It takes discipline and confidence to give your body the rest it needs. Give yourself an extra rest day and reduce all runs by 60% So, if you’re used to running 8 miles on your easy recovery days, you should target 5 miles instead. I advise doing one very easy interval session to help alleviate nerves and to remind your body what marathon pace feels like. This workout won’t leave you fatigued, but it will give you a little bit of confidence.
2. Run the day before the marathon
Running will help promote blood flow your legs and will make you less nervous. This should be a very gentle 1 mile run.