When Russell isn’t running he has an Urban farm setup where he supplies organic produce from a roadside stall and
Within every successful marathon program is an effective marathon taper. The taper is used to absorb the hard training you’ve put into your marathon and have you feeling rested but not stale or sluggish on race day. Most marathon programs use a two week taper from the last long run, with the hard training tapering off over this period before the race.
We will break the taper down into three areas;
Over the course of your marathon training you have put in a tremendous amount of hard work. The discipline and commitment to get through the training is what gets a marathoner to the race fit and ready to race a great marathon. In this last two week period you can forget about the hard training and utilise your training to assess your fitness and enjoy the runs.
For a simple way to manage the marathon taper training, take an extra day off. If you normally run five days per week run four. You won’t be running and long run in this week so have another rest day. You can still run your hill and interval workout if you like but keep it shorter and not overly challenging. If you’ve been running six reps of your hill, run four and likewise on the intervals. The intensity of your training doesn’t need to change but make each session shorter. For your aerobic or easy runs the same should be done, make them 10-15 min shorter and enjoy the run.
A marathon taper that doesn’t change too much from your normal routine will keep you a happier runner over the taper period and motivated up until the race.
With a busy life and adding the rigours of marathon training to it runners often don’t get enough or prioritise sleep. One of the great benefits to running less is the advantage of more sleep. It is important that the marathoner takes advantage of the extra sleep available. Whilst the body clock may have you waking early any way do your best to sleep as long as possible and be as fresh as possible when it comes time to run your marathon.
With an extra rest day scheduled this should be viewed as a sleep in opportunity. With every other run shorter than normal there is an opportunity to sleep longer and run slightly later in the morning. The marathon week is a key time to make sure you get enough sleep, go to bed early and sleep.
Imagine if every extra hour of sleep you could get in this two weeks is a minute off your marathon time (not saying it works this way).
Whatever nutrition or dietary strategy you used for your marathon training shouldn’t need to change too much in your taper period. If it has worked for you for the 12-14 weeks of marathon training there shouldn’t be too much reason to alter in these two weeks.
Be mindful of how much less running you’ll be doing and how many calories your won’t be burning off. Cutting your weekly mileage by 30-50% from what it’s been used to may have an effect if you continue to eat the same way. Monitor how you feel, if you start to feel sluggish you may need to adjust your portion sizes. There is certainly no need to over think your nutrition and change your food intake too much though. keep it simple and you’ll be happier and feel good about this upcoming marathon.
Whether you are experienced at tapering or beginning down this journey stay focussed on why you started the marathon journey in the first place. If you’ve come this far and stayed healthy and uninjured than you are almost ready to run a great race on marathon day.
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.
It’s no secret that my running footwear of choice is usually barefoot running sandals from US brand Gladsoles. I have now run in Gladsoles for almost five years now and for the past 2 – 3 years they have been on my feet more than any other. Whenever I am due for more barefoot running sandals I email Rich at Gladsoles and ask if he has anything new coming out. The purchase of these sandals came because my Trail 2.0 sandals had reached their decline after 1400km over all surfaces. This time around Rich let me know he had a new Vibram rubber that I may be interested in.
Enter the Gladsoles 10mm Super trail. These sandals are built on 10mm thick Vibram Nuflex rubber, the Trail 2.0 sandal was built on a 8mm thick Vibram Gumlite rubber. It was explained to me that the Nuflex rubber would be slightly less dense and slightly more flexible than the Gumlite rubber. If there was any criticism of the 8mm Gumlite rubber it would be that it was slightly too dense and didn’t have a lot of give.
What is missing from barefoot running sandals compared with most running shoes is mid sole foam. The mid sole foam is there to provide cushioning. When you run without mid sole foam your feet and ankles take more impact. There is no doubt this puts more stress on this area however in time the feet and ankles strengthen to the point where mid sole foam becomes irrelevant to your running. The effect of not having cushioning is mainly evident on longer runs as fatigue impacts running economy and running form. This has stopped me wearing sandals in road marathons to this point until my feet and ankles become even stronger. What I’ve been looking for in a barefoot running sandal is exactly what the 10mm Super Trail sounded like.
Immediately after running in the 10mm Super trail it was noticeable that the Nuflex rubber reacts slightly differently. It is quite a bit more flexible than the Gumlite rubber and slightly less dense. The benefit to this is a very small amount of give or cushion effect, that may be enough to help the feet, ankles and legs fatigue less through long runs and be able to run better for longer periods. The Nuflex rubber has been tested multiple times already on long runs of up to 3 hours 30 minute and this is evident.
Having a more flexible sandal means you still get fantastic feel from the ground whether you choose to run on road, trail or other surfaces. These have so far been tested on road, trail and beach conditions and passed each test comfortably. Initially this was a concern moving from a 8mm sandal to a 10mm rubber and whether this would affect the feedback you receive back from the ground. The 10mm sandal does give slightly less feedback however the benefits for longer runs outweigh this ever so slight negative.
The possible downside to a less dense rubber is longevity. The 8mm Gumlite have run 1400km and counting, I am unsure whether the 10mm Nuflex sandals will give this type of mileage. So far though they have run 150km and have virtually no visible signs of wear to the sole of the sandal. These sandals most certainly give 1200km+ meaning they are giving double what most running shoes twice their price return.
Gladsoles sandals are custom made to a tracing of both feet which you email when ordering. This is a huge benefit from any other product on the market. They are hand crafted and customised to your feet making sure that every sandal is a perfect fit for the individual runner.
So far the running experience in the Gladsoles 10mm Super Trail has been excellent. These are the fifth sandal I’ve owned from Gladsoles and for running long distances they are the best yet. Running in this sandal so far and testing it over marathon specific long runs in training, I am confident this sandal can get me through a road marathon (or a race on any other surface) in my best shape.
If you are looking for a barefoot running sandal for your running give Gladsoles some consideration. While they may not be the most recognised name in the barefoot sandal arena they make up for it by working hard to make a mighty good running sandal. The customisation can’t be understated as every sandal will fit perfectly and the customer service is superb.
The Gladsoles 10mm Super Trails are great choice of barefoot running sandal. #freethefeet
You’re at the half way point of your marathon training program, so where should your training be and how should you feel? If you’ve completed all or most of your key sessions as designed you’ll be feeling fit, strong and motivated to get to the marathon start line.
With 7-8 long runs under your belt you will have developed a good endurance base and strong aerobic capacity. Running for over two hours at your long run pace should feel comfortable and dare I say relatively easy. This is why we run weekly long runs so that running for long periods feels comfortable. At this stage in your training you should have built to your maximum long run time or distance, your base endurance training is almost completed. One of the great feelings from regular long runs is the bodies adaptation to endurance. As the body adapts to regular increases in the long run distances, the distances that were difficult early in your marathon training now feel easy.
Over the next 5-6 weeks before a taper you can add some quality marathon specific training to your long runs. These can consist of race pace efforts during a long run. A favourite session is on a 30km long run to include 4 x 5km at race pace in the middle of the run with a 1-2km recovery between each. You can easily structure a long run session on a similar theme but add race paced efforts during the middle or finish the long run this way and really build your resistance to fatigue at your race pace.
Half way through the marathon program you will be strong from regular hill sessions. These sessions have given you the leg strength to be able to feel stronger as you fatigue during your longer runs. This strength will be vital in the later stages of the marathon when running gets tough. Over the next 5-6 weeks hill sessions we recommend continuing completing hill sessions weekly and ensuring a strong body on marathon day.
On top of the long runs and hill sessions, the two most key base marathon fitness sessions the interval and aerobic runs you’ve completed will have assisted in building a really strong fitness base. As mileage has increased over these 7-8 weeks as has a solid aerobic capacity. People whose marathon training has gone to plan to this point could quite easily run a good marathon this weekend.
The second half
For the second half of the marathon training you will most likely want a 10-14 day taper at the end. If you are on a 16 week marathon cycle this leave six weeks of training before the race taper. From this period you can focus more on race specific training and less on building your endurance and strength.
The three key sessions won’t change too much but the focus shifts slightly to long runs that incorporate race pace, intervals that are shorter at a slightly higher intensity and hill sessions that are shorter. The focus in this period will give intervals the priority over hills. This is reversed from the first half of training when building strength was a great priority then speed. This is because your strength base is now built and we shift to getting ready to running your fastest on marathon day.
Remember you don’t need to become a faster runner to run a faster marathon, you need to stop getting tired and run your best at the end of the marathon. Therefore long runs should be run throughout the training program and will always be the most valuable run of each week.
If you are feeling this way at half way then you should be confident that you are on track for the marathon start line and a good performance. Stay motivated and keep working hard and you’ll achieve your race goals in your marathon.
“Distance runners don’t need to get faster, they just need to stop getting tired” – Matt Fitzgerald
When most runners think about improving their performance over any race distance they think about how to get faster. What we really should be thinking is how do I stop getting tired during races. This thinking and Matt Fitzgerald’s quote is synonymous with the way elite runners approach their training. It is mostly not about becoming a faster runner, it is about getting through an event reducing the effects of fatigue on your running performance.
Most runners suffer nerves or anxiety before a race, however not usually nerves at whether we can run the desired pace. Nerves before a running performance are often directed at the pain and suffering that runners go through as muscle fatigue sets in. It is not the speed we are running that is the problem, it is being able to keep running that speed as we tire that runners need to improve.
Your goal pace in the marathon for instance is not that fast for you. However it is extremely difficult and painful to continue at that pace at mile 24. The only difference is you are physically and mentally fatigued.
How can you stop getting tired?
If you want to be able to perform at your best practise makes perfect. If you want to improve your running, run more. Simple advice, but there really is no shortcut to improvement.
- Consistent long runs
If you want to give yourself the best chance at running well as you fatigue then consistent long runs are essential. Legendary running coach Arthur Lydiard used to have his 800m and mile runners complete 20 mile long runs every Sunday. These were completed at an aerobic pace and designed to have the runner build endurance. Elite 800m runners are no different to elite marathon runners in that they don’t need to become faster, they need to stop getting tired when they hit the home straight in a fast run 800m race. Quite simply, if you want to minimise the effects of fatigue during the business end of your next race you should be running an aerobic long run weekly.
- Aerobic mileage
Aerobic mileage means running at a pace that builds the aerobic capacity, this means low intensity, low heart rate running. If you want to improve your running, run more at an aerobic mileage. It is not the weekly interval session that will make you tire less but the repeated aerobic mileage. Increasing your aerobic mileage and sustaining this over a period of time will give incremental improvements. These will be difficult to see in the short term but over time the improvements will be able to be measured. If you need to skip a workout for whatever reason it’s better to skip the interval session and run the aerobic session. Remember, you don’t need to get faster, you need to stop getting tired.
These are two simple ways you can train your body and mind to make a small change in your running training. Almost every one of us has been guilty at some stage of running our easy runs too hard, shifting your mindset to believe you don’t need to get faster can change this habit. If you run your easy runs at a lower intensity you will recover quicker and be ready and motivated for the next run allowing you to run more often.
When you go into a race knowing you’ve done enough training you will be better equipped to deal with everything a race throws at you when you get tired. You may not ever become a faster runner, you don’t need to, just stop getting tired.
Melissa Ensink is a runner from Melbourne, Australia and a six time marathon finisher. Melissa is also an accomplished yoga teacher and vegan. Melissa recently ran the Canberra marathon in April and is currently training for her home marathon in Melbourne in October.
Melissa has personal best times at the following distances;
Marathon PB – 3:54:58
30km PB – 2:33:30
Half marathon PB – 1:45:08
10km PB – 48:24
5km PB – 23:45
How long have you been running, and how did you start?
I was always a runner back in school, from as early as grade 3 I was competitive in athletics and cross country. My events were 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay. I also did cross country and although ‘long distance’ running wasn’t a natural gift, I did okay and was a part of a pretty successful cross country team in secondary school. This was mainly due to two of the runners in our team being very competitive at state and national levels. For a few of my teenage years, back in my home town, I was also a boundary umpire for the local football leagues. At the time, I loved footy and thought it was the best thing to get paid to run and watch footy – even if it was raining. After school I didn’t continue any formal training and just ran to keep fit and healthy and also for the positive mental health effects.
I decided I wanted to run a half marathon back in 2012 but after I injured my knee playing netball, I didn’t get around to this until August 2013 – Sandy Point Half Marathon. My training consisted of running one or two of the same loops near my house, and timing it with a fake purple Casio watch I got in Thailand for $3. After that I got more focused on my running, bought my first Garmin watch, completed a proper training plan and ran my first marathon.
What running achievement are you most proud of?
Finishing the Honolulu Marathon is my favourite running memory to date and I was proud to just finish. My training went really well but a few weeks out I injured my hip and was barely able to walk! With the right rest and guidance, I was able to run again and complete the marathon. It wasn’t fast and certainly not pain free but totally worth it.
What is your biggest tip to becoming a successful runner?
For me it is being organised and having a structured plan. If I haven’t set out what I will do for the week, I probably won’t do it. I like to know in advance what mileage I am shooting for and what workouts I will do.
If I am not training for a particular race, things are less structured but I still have a general idea of what I would like to do that week or phase. Mixing up training and events to keep things interesting is also important.
What is your favourite training session?
At the moment I am enjoying kilometre repeats. for example: 2km warm up, 4x1km @10km or HM pace (depending on the day) with 0.5km easy in between. 2km cool down. Distance and pace might vary depending on the day or where I am in the training cycle.
How do you stay motivated when you don’t want to run?
Instead of relying on motivation, I am clear on my ‘why’, make the commitment to my goals and my training and stay disciplined in this pursuit. In an ordinary week, I would say half the time I am super motivated and pumped to run, and the rest of the time I would rather do other things. But I know that the work has to be done to get closer to my goals. I also tell myself when I can’t be bothered running that I will feel so much better afterwards which always ends up being true!
What are your favourite running shoes?
I used to love the Mizuno Sayonara but they’ve stopped making them. So I am on the lookout for a new favourite. This year I am testing the Asics Cumulus and Nike Lunarglide.
What are your goals for the future?
My overall goal is to be running for as long as I can, hopefully into old age. Right now my main goal is to run the Boston Marathon, so I am trying to get a qualifying time in the next 6-8 months. I would also like to run a marathon in every state in Australia and on every continent of the world.
Thanks for taking the time out of your schedule for this interview Melissa. If you wish to keep up to date with Melissa on her running journey you can follow her at pranarunning or on instagram also at pranarunning. Thanks again Melissa and good luck in the future.
A month into your marathon training program how should your fitness have progressed? A standard marathon program duration is usually 14-16 weeks giving you basically three months of training and a two week taper before your race.
In this initial month the goal should be two fold;
- Increase your endurance
- Increase muscular strength
This first month or even longer can be considered your base phase of training where you work on these two goals. We have spoken in depth about increasing your mileage to increase your endurance, this is a fundamental goal in the base phase of marathon training. You can build your mileage and endurance through regular aerobic workouts and stretching your long run time each week.
During the first month of the marathon base is the time to increase muscular strength, incorporating hills into training is essential for this development. Ensuring you complete your weekly hill session as well as running regular aerobic runs over hilly terrain should be increased during base training phase. This increase will build strength for when you do longer or more challenging interval and tempo sessions later in the training. Simply put running more over hills at an aerobic pace will develop both your endurance and strength.
If you use Strava or another online site to log your mileage you can focus on two metrics. Monitor your weekly mileage and elevation run. Your Strava profile will measure your last 4 weeks of running, focus on increasing this number during this period of training.
While the focus is on endurance and strength in this phase running a weekly interval session should still be completed. As part of the three weekly sessions it is recommended that an interval workout is run every week. During the base phase you can run longer intervals, the goal of intervals is usually to increase speed. However running a longer interval will give you an endurance pay off as well and teaching the body to be able to run fast as it fatigues. Being able to run fast through fatigue is a vital component of developing endurance for the marathon. At some stage in the marathon you’ll be asked to dig deep and stay on goal pace and these longer intervals and long runs are where you’ll teach yourself this skill.
After this first month of training you should be feeling comfortable with running the increased mileage you’ve developed. From here the recommendation is to continue to build the endurance through increasing long run distance, strength through hill workouts and more focussed speed through shorter, faster intervals. However you will need to recover from the harder workouts and you can run your aerobic runs on flatter terrain and possibly slower than the previous phase. After eight weeks of marathon training you should be reaching close to your maximum distance of your long run and be ready to build speed and strength to get you through the marathon. the value you’ll get from a quality base phase of marathon training will help you get through the hard training thats ahead and to the finish line of the marathon.
Recently in these pages we talked about the benefits of increasing your weekly mileage and how doing this can improve your overall running performance. For most runners a small increase in mileage in the short term will not greatly increase their chances of injury and if this increase turns into a consistent training variation the benefits outweigh the risk of injury.
The main injury risk associated with an increase in mileage is increasing beyond your capabilities. Therefore you should structure your mileage based on your recent running volume. Going from 40km per week to 80km in a week will have very little benefit if you cannot sustain the increase and need to go back to 40km after a week or two.
The best method of increasing is to develop a plan that will allow you to increase gradually and then sustain the new weekly volume. The easiest two strategies are;
- Increase your easy runs by 5-10 min
- Consistent long runs
Almost every runner can make 5-10 minutes more in their daily schedule to increase their run. This is fail safe plan against injury for most runners as the extra mileage will hardly be noticed. Only strategy needed is a commitment to get out the door for 5-10 minutes.
Long runs should be run consistently for any long distance runner, they are the staple run for improving endurance over time. Make time in your schedule every week to run long regardless of the period in your training program. The distance or time of these long runs can vary based on your ability, running background a goal races. Easy rule of thumb is to make your long run 25-30% of your total weekly mileage.
How rapidly you should increase mileage can vary from runner to runner. If you are new to running you will need to be patient, the body will take time to get used to the increase. If you have a history of injury then you should be cautious, this does not mean you can’t increase mileage but monitor yourself as you increase mileage. Remember the benefits will only be delivered if you can maintain the increase for a period of time, be patient.
If you are an intermediate or advanced runner with little history of injury then you can push greater mileage with confidence. Increase mileage to a point where you can maintain the increase for 3-4 weeks without suffering fatigue or burnout. If you do feel you are starting to burnout then you’ve increased too quickly and may need to plateau or decrease.
Incorporating regular rest days into your schedule will help you avoid burnout or fatigue. We recommend not planning rest days and using these when you feel you need to rest. This helps you avoid burnout and injury as you rest when the mind or body says no, and run when you are motivated, ready and willing.
When you increase mileage you should be attempting to create a new normal for yourself that over a period of weeks feels normal. Therefore you should only increase to what you feel you can capably sustain. If you achieve this you certainly give yourself a better chance of remaining injury free.
You’ll get great benefits over time by increasing your mileage, you’ll get even greater benefits over time by remaining injury free and enjoying your running.