How to taper effectively for a marathon

Pre-marathon training tips

Are you just about to enter the taper phase of your marathon training but unsure how to go about it? Read on to find how to taper effectively.

 

Written by Louise Damen

Louise is a two-time England Cross Country Champion and a former European XC Trials winner. She has also represented GB at various international events and her marathon PB is 2:30:00.

The taper; for some it’s the best part of marathon training and for some the worst! It’s well known that in order to produce your peak performance on race day you need to taper your training to ensure that you feel invigorated and ready to roll both physically and mentally. However after spending weeks pounding out the miles, a reduction in training load can often induce ‘taper tantrums’ and so-called ‘maranoia’! So, how do you taper effectively without losing your fitness and your sanity?

Reduce the volume

Many runners fail to realise that there is virtually no fitness to be gained in the last two weeks before a race. The temptation is to keep on pushing. However, it takes at least 10 days to 2 weeks to reap the benefits of any given workout. Therefore the last 10 days before a race should be about maintaining fitness rather than building it.

You should start to reduce your training volume 2-3 weeks out from the big day. If you start to taper before this then there’s a risk that you may actually lose fitness. Conversely however if your taper is too short then it’s likely that you won’t give yourself adequate time to recover from and adapt to all the hard training that you’ve done. As a rough guide you should look to reduce your training load to 60 per cent of your normal volume in the penultimate week before the race and then reduce this further to 30 per cent of normal in the final week. Less is more at this stage! 

Maintain intensity

It’s important to remember that whilst you should be reducing the volume of your training you should maintain some of the intensity or there’s a risk that you will feel sluggish by race day. It’s a good idea to include some faster paced running in the final week before your marathon, even if this is simply just some surges at marathon pace built into one or two runs.

Don’t panic

It’s perfectly normal to have irrational thoughts and doubts as race day moves closer. You will most likely feel every little ache and pain, running at pace may feel hard and you’ll be paranoid about standing within a one mile radius of anyone who coughs and sneezes! However, be assured that this is all normal and is simply your body and your mind preparing itself for a big effort. It’s a good idea to find a nice distraction to occupy your mind in the final week before the race such as a good book to read or some films to watch. 

Rest up

In order to get the most out of your taper then you should carefully consider your other commitments outside of running in the final week before the race. If you can, try to avoid running around like a headless chicken and aim to get as much rest as possible outside of running.

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