With exactly three weeks to go until race day, we have entered one of my least favorite parts about training: the taper. The point of marathon tapering, or any tapering in general, is to give the body rest and reduce the fatigue of training in order to be at peak performance on race day. Sounds logical, but telling a runner to cut back on training is like asking a kid to give back all of their Easter candy.
From my post about tapering for Detroit, you can see how crazy these next three weeks can be for runners. Marathon tapering can be just as harder (if not more so) than the rest of the training cycle. Anxiety, doubt, energy, lethargy. Yeesh
But never fear! Given that I have been forcing myself to focus on recovery, rest, and enjoying the easy days, I have a new perspective on tapering and some tips to follow to help get me through. I was inspired by a quote from one of my favorite running idols, Lauren Fleshman:
“Anyone can train hard. Do you have the discipline to recover?”
I read that quote this weekend and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The training brings you so far, the next few weeks of the marathon taper is just another phase that will allow the body to recover for a great performance. Here are some marathon tapering tips to help get through these next three weeks until Boston.
From your peak week, you can calculate the reduction in mileage for your marathon taper. There are many theories about how much to reduce, and I’ve linked a few articles at the bottom of the page.
I peaked at 66 miles this week and will use that as a way to gauge my mileage reduction. The first week of taper, I only do about a 10% reduction, so I will still run close to 60 miles. The second week of marathon taper, I reduce my peak mileage by about 25% and will run around 50 miles. The final week of marathon taper, the week of the race, I reduce my mileage about 50-60%, and will run about 30 miles.
To reduce the mileage, I’ll just take off a mile or two from my easy mid-week runs, as well as drop down my long run distance. The reduction of mileage during marathon tapering allows your body to recover and repair itself from the heavy training load before. In the final week before the race, I add in another total rest day.
2. …get sleep and good nutrition….
In order to repair itself, the body needs sleep and fuel! Help the recovery along by getting plenty of rest. I usually get about 7 hours of sleep a night, that’s what I’ve found that my body needs. I will stick with that for the first part of taper, but the days leading up to the marathon I will aim for closer to 8 hours. In terms of nutrition, I don’t deviate much from my normal diet. I stick to lots of good whole foods that aid in muscle recovery and I make sure to stick with eating foods that I know don’t upset my stomach. The only change I do make is to shift to a slightly higher carb ratio in the week leading up to the race, as well as bumping up my hydration.
3. ….. but maintain intensity.
Keeping up the intensity is key to a successful marathon taper. If I start to cut my miles back too much, I start to doubt my readiness for running 26.2 miles. To compensate, I still do tempo and intervals in order to keep “the pop” in my legs. I keep my tempo runs at a 15k or half marathon pace like normal, and still do 400s and strides. The last week of taper I do a tempo at marathon pace because I believe in muscle memory; if I want my legs to run at this pace for the marathon, I make sure to practice that pace, even in the last few weeks of taper. The intervals and strides are to keep up my turn over and speed, and to keep my legs primed for a fast performance.
Week 12 Boston Marathon Training
(Catch up on past weeks here)
Planned mileage: 64.0 Actual mileage: 66 mi
I thought I recovered well from the Cary Half because I Was able to do the tempo workout Tuesday morning, but when I left to go to speed on Wednesday night my body said “HELL NO” and I ended up doing a recovery run that ended in an “oh please let me get home before I embarrass myself on the path” painful last mile. But by Saturday I was fresh again and ready to tackle 20 miles.
Monday: EZ 9. Day’s total: 9.07, 8:19 pace
- Sloooooow going after yesterday’s half.
Tuesday: 9 w/5 @tempo + strength. Day’s total: 9.22, 7:30 avg
- AM: Did an alternating lactate clearance workout designed to get my body to learn how to recover at a faster pace. I dealt with a moderate headwind on the way south, so instead of being around 7:10 my paces were slower, and instead of being around 6:50 my paces on the way out were faster. Splits: 6:41, 7:14, 6:43, 7:13, 6:44, 7:18.
- PM: Power Sculpt Fitness. Tried to do a tabata style class to get in some strength. Not a fan of this class, but that could have been because it was mostly leg heavy and I was still a bit sore, but the description led me to believe it would be more balanced between abs, legs, and arms.
Wednesday: Speed (6×1 mi repeats). Day’s total: 10.0 mi, 8:28 avg
- AM: Slept in and missed NP because I thought it was going to be PR day. 🙁
- PM: Supposed to be 6 mile repeats but as I left my apartment to run down to speed, I realized that my body was not capable of running fast. I knew the total distance was supposed to be around 10 miles so I decided to do an easy 10 instead. It was a cold drizzly night, not many people on the path, which later turned out to be a blessing…
Thursday: Rest Day. Day’s total: 0
- AM: I felt much better after the previous evening’s events and enjoyed some Buddha Burn
- PM: Had a gift certificate to my gym that I needed to use up so I treated myself to a massage. He was quite the Chatty Cathy and make a few remarks while he was getting out the knots, but my favorite by far was, “Man, you must eat really well, your tendons and muscles are nice and strong!” 😀
Friday: November Project + EZ 8. Day’s total: 8.98, 7:40 avg.
- AM: November Project Easter themed workout! The leaders organized an Easter egg hunt while we did a partner workout. If you found an egg you had to do 10 burpees- awful, why would I want to find an egg?- the workout wouldn’t end until all eggs were found. After NP I did my usual run.
Saturday 20.0mi with 2×6@ Marathon Goal Pace. Day’s total: 20.32, 7:27 avg
- Final run out in Barrington! Had to include 2×6 miles at MP so I warmed up with an easy 2 miles around 8min/745ish before getting into my first set: 7:17, 7:19, 7:31, 7:15, 7:07, 7:18 (avg = 7:18). Then a few miles in between (4 hill repeats) before hitting another set, this time I chose to do 7 miles because I knew I was going to have Braeburn hill to deal with: 7:20, 7:49 (curses Braeburn!), 7:09, 7:08, 7:15, 7:24, 7:12 (avg = 7:19). Felt great!
Sunday: EZ 8. Day’s total: 8.06, 8:04 avg
- AM: Easy run in new shoes
- PM: Bikram yoga. So glad to have made it to a class!