What Is The Best Way To Plan A Marathon Taper?
One of the hardest parts of any marathon taper is backing off the training you have become so accustomed to doing.
The truth is, in the last 10 days to 2 weeks prior to your marathon there is really little you can add to the fitness you have already gained preparing.
You can still get benefits from doing the last few workouts leading into your marathon. That being said, the impact of what you do in the last 10 days to 2 weeks will have minimal effect on your overall fitness.
It Is What You Don't Do In The Last 10 Days To 3 Weeks That Will Count
Remember, you want to leverage the hard work you have been doing up to this point. Leverage simply means doing more with less. There is little you can do in the last few days before a marathon in terms of training, That being said, there are many things you can do wrong.
Doing high mileage isn't the answer in the last few days before a marathon. Your body has adapted to running and being trained in a constant fatigued state. What you do want to do is to gradually lower the mileage while maintaining intensity.
Allowing the body to rest is key.
Tapering for a marathon means that you keep the intensity high but you drop volume.
You are now allowing the body to recover from all the hard training by decreasing the volume and keeping your intensity the same.
For example, if you were doing 16x400m on the track at 70 seconds per rep with a 200m recovery the last 10 days consider doing 6x400m at 70 seconds with full recovery.
Why Is A Taper Is So Important
It takes approximately 21 days or 3 weeks for the body to adapt to any stress you place on it.
You are putting in basically maintenance miles leading into a marathon. My recommendation is to not start your taper into you are 10 days out from your marathon. Generally, this seems to be the optimal time where most top marathoners start their taper.
Again, you will not have the time to add to the fitness you already have. So, what you do in the last few days is critical to your marathon success.
This is where patience plays a part.
You have to realize that now is the prime time to get a return on investment. Do less, not more. Remember the principle of leverage.
That being said, tapering for a race is also very much individual. There are runners who may get better results from a 3-week taper, rather than a 10-day taper.
Do what you feel works best for you. I have found that tapering 3 weeks out makes me feel too sluggish. The key is maintaining some high intensity workouts days before a marathon but not high in volume.
Additionally, you will be making a major transition from heavy training as you move into your taper phase.
I always do a 5K at goal marathon race pace 4 days before my marathons. The reason being is it keeps your legs reminded of what they need to do. In addition, you get a physiological boost from that workout leading into your marathon.
What A Marathon Taper Should Look Like
Week 4 – Highest volume week
Week 3– 75% of your high week but maintaining intensity in track sessions.
Tempo runs are shorter but still aggressive in nature
Week 2 – 50% of highest volume week. Shorter sprints i.e. 12x400m at 5K goal race pace, now 6-8x400m at same intensity, more rest in recovery
Week 1 – 25% of highest volume week, light strides, very short track session such as 6x200m, 4x400m or short tempo at goal race pace, lower volume, lower anaerobic volume
The discipline of all your hard work comes into play during a marathon taper.
Far too many runners think that by continuing to push the last few days leading into a race that more can be gained.
This most always is not the case.
Running is a lot like an exam. You can't cram the night before and expect to do well.
The key is letting go of the questions. Our bodies always perform their best when we are the most relaxed.
Have you ever watched Usain Bolt run the 100m or 200m? Who do you think is the most relaxed when they toe the line?
Bolt performs above standard most of the time. The hard work he has put in is never seen.
The Process That Is Never Seen
The lights, glamor and attention he receives is because when it is time to race, he makes it look easy. He has done the work that no one ever sees.
He, like so many others, does not stress on the line.
If you have a routine you prefer i.e. going off somewhere quiet listening to some motivational music, away from the crowd, do so. That being said, stay relaxed, calm and collected when you toe the line.
A well-planned, marathon taper will help you toe the line fully charged and ready to set a new personal best. Marathon tapering is an art form. It is all about timing. A 10-day taper is best and will leave you well-rested and ready.
Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube Channel. I'll be creating new videos each week to help you run faster at the 5K to marathon race distances. Leave a comment below or feel free to contact me anytime. I look forward to hearing about how your race went.