Tapering is one of the most important aspects of the marathon training programme. It's the part where your body and mind gets a chance to recover so that you're raring to go on race day. However, at the same time you don't want to have rested too much so that you're on the start line feeling sluggish. It's a fine balance and one that you really want to get right. So here's some advice on how to do just that:
Decrease your training volume progressively- Like most things running, there's not one approach that's ideal for everyone, but good general advice would be to do around 80% (of your peak training week) with 3 weeks to go. 60% volume with 2 weeks to go, and then a 30% week leading up to race day.
Avoid temptation to over train- you've been in constant training for months, so it'll feel a little odd when you start to cut back. With this excess energy, you may have the urge to keep doing long runs and intense interval sessions. Resist this temptation as the hard work has been done and it's not worth taking a risk that may lead to muscle damage or injury!
Don't try anything new- In the final 3 weeks, make sure you don't do anything you haven't done before. So if you haven't been doing strength training in your programme, don't start now! The same goes for food. At this point you will know what has worked for you over the past few months, so don't make late alterations to your pre-run nutrition, running hydration etc. Such changes can throw off your preparations so it's best to be sensible.
Practice race pace- With 2 weeks to go, do some runs that are slightly slower than race pace but make sure that during them you throw in a few miles at race speed. Then with one week to go, do some short runs entirely at race pace. This will ensure you’re using the correct energy systems and it also provides you with that last minute reminder of what your pace should feel like.
The final week- It can be good to get a massage in the lead up to the race, but do this a week before the big day, not right before. Also, try to get your mind off of running. Spend time with friends and family, and don’t think too much about the upcoming race. Avoid stressful situations and don’t plan to do anything strenuous. As the race approaches, nerves may well kick in. This is completely normal so try to remain relaxed and confident. Good luck and enjoy the day!
Written by Marc Brown