Marathon Taper – Pro Tips for a Marathon PR

What Is the best way to plan a marathon taper? I am a firm believe in a 10-day rather than a 3-week taper. One of the biggest mistakes runners make is to start dropping their mileage and intensity too soon. Remember, 10 days is plenty of time to recover from the hard training you have been doing.

What I do not want for you is to go into your main event feeling tired and lethargic. You should feel recovered and motivated. The optimal time frame to train for a marathon is a minimum of 16 and preferably 20 to 24 weeks. It takes the body anywhere from 3 to 4 weeks to adapt to the hard stresses that we place on it. So, always think long-term when it comes to this event.

One of the hardest parts of any marathon taper is backing off the training you have become so accustomed to doing. Remember, you are not going to lose any fitness backing off your volume or intensity. It is just the fact that you have become so accustomed to training it feels weird to rest.

marathon taper

The truth is, in the last 10 days prior to your marathon there is little you can add to your fitness.

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.

How Long Should a Taper Be for a Marathon?

As mentioned above, 10 days. Yes, the more popular belief is 3 weeks. That being said, many of the runners following the RunDreamAchieve philosophy are seeing benefits from 10 days. You are more than welcome to visit the testimonial page to read what they are saying.

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.

So, doing high mileage is not 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 up until about 10 days out. I have created training plans as well as running courses here to help you set a new personal best. In addition, the 10-day marathon taper is built into our marathon training plans.

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.

How Do I Taper 2 Weeks before a Marathon?

I would lower your mileage around 60 to 75 percent of your peak mileage 2 weeks out from the marathon. Of course, if you were following one of my courses or plans it would be 10 days out. Also, your longest long run should be around 3 to 4 weeks out from the marathon.

I would highly recommend investing in a heart rate monitor for your future races. Again, you want to ensure you are not over training. Also, running at the proper paces during your easy runs, tempo runs, long runs and fartlek run workouts. I use the Garmin 245 for my own training runs. So, it helps me to ensure I am not running too fast on recovery days.

Again, 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.

Can I Run 20 miles 2 Weeks Before a Marathon?

I would aim to run your longest long run 3 to 4 weeks out from your marathon. 2 weeks out is cutting it close. Again, you do not want to go into your main event feeling tired. So, ensure to run that last hard effort no later than 3 weeks out from your goal marathon.

Remember, 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.

So, 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. How much time are you devoting to mental training? I ask that because so few runners pay attention to this. The facts are most runners are only paying attention to physical training.

So, be sure to start implementing mental rehearsal into your training routine. The good news is that it does not take more than 10 minutes per day to do this. The best time to do this is when you first get up or when you go to bed at night. See yourself crossing the finish line in your goal marathon time. Also, running strong and passing people. Remember, we have to train the mind equally as we train the body.

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.

Can You Over Taper for a Marathon?

Yes, most certainly you can. I highly recommend not dropping your mileage 3 to 4 weeks before your marathon. 4 weeks is far too soon and 3 weeks often times leaves runners feeling tired. Again, 10 days is my top recommendation.

10 days is plenty of time to fully recover from the many months of training you have put in. Below is how I would suggest setting up your last 4 weeks of training.

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

Is it OK Not to Run the Week Before a Marathon?

I would do light running the week of the marathon with some strides. In fact, strides should be done throughout training build up. Strides are too short to build up any large amounts of lactic acid. Strides are short 50 to 100-meter acceleration drills. Also, are great for warm-up and before you start your workouts or races. As mentioned above, do a 3-mile run at goal marathon race pace 4 days out from your future marathon.

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.

Closing Thoughts

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.

Everyone is different though.

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.

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