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.