If you’ve arrived at this point in your marathon training without injury or illness interrupting your training you’ll be feeling pretty good about the marathon that awaits you. With 10-12 weeks of quality marathon training in your legs you should certainly be feeling fit and well trained and almost ready to put the training into action on race day.
The last month of marathon training are still an important period with some solid training followed by a taper period. During these last 2-3 weeks of heavy training the long runs are still vital for continuing to build endurance but also to five you the confidence that you’ll be running your best on race day. We recommend to continue running your long runs with race pace work throughout them. This can easily be achieved by adding some race pace efforts during your run or finishing the run at race pace. These could look like 4 x 5km during the run at race pace or the last 10km at race pace. Using your last two long runs of your marathon training with these type of work will give you confidence that can run your race pace when you fatigue during the marathon. Marathons inevitably become very difficult over the last 10km, there is huge advantage by being trained and ready to give your best when it matters most.
Mileage over these last few weeks of heavy training should still be consistent with what you’ve managed to build to this point. There is no real advantage in building further at this point but a risk of injury close to the race. A smart decision is to maintain the mileage that you’ve achieved so far and be confident that you’ve done work. There is no substitute for the aerobic miles you’ve worked hard on putting in over the course of the last 10-12 weeks.
This last four weeks is a time to transition away from building strength and move further into building speed. This can be as simple as making your hill sessions shorter and your interval session more challenging. By this stage in your marathon training you are feeling strong and don’t need to build more strength, working on your speed and more importantly being able to fast as you fatigue. Interval sessions at this point should challenge you with short intervals, short recovery and more reps. Work hard in these sessions to give you the speed benefit before race day.
Once these last few weeks of hard marathon training is completed it’s time to taper. It’s an individual choice on how long this needs to be. For a marathon two weeks is generally considered optimal but many people decide on a one week taper and this is fine. If you choose a shorter taper recommendation would be to not run your last long run within the last 10 days of the marathon. At this point you don’t need the training, you need to absorb the training and rest before race day.
Taper’s can be a difficult time for runners who have been training hard and don’t feel like they need to rest. As we get closer to race the nerves and anxiety are heightened and this can add to the feeling. Tapering can be helped if you continue to run to your normal plan but lower the mileage. If you are used to running six days a week you probably still can, just cut your runs in half and continue about your normal schedule.
During your taper use sleep as a training tool and don’t set an alarm in the morning. If you run early in the morning your body clock likely is set to wake early anyway. Let yourself rest and run after you wake naturally, if this doesn’t leave you much time so be it, you could use a rest day anyway.
The last month of your marathon training is a great time to reflect on how far you’ve come from putting in 2-3 months of hard work. You are almost ready to run a marathon, something most people never get to experience. Enjoy every moment of the journey along the way.