The time has come again – I’m officially in my marathon taper.
There are a lot of different views about tapers and how they are done, but for me I’ve always done it the exact same way no matter what training cycle I’m in. If you’ve followed the blog for a while then you may remember that back when I used Hanson’s Marathon Method to get my first Boston Qualifying time. Hansons didn’t do a typical 2 week taper, but I knew that my body responded best with it so I edited the plan to fit into a taper. You can read more about that here.
Marathon tapers are a way for you to still keep your legs moving, throw in a few small workouts, but also let them rest and recovery prior to marathon day. You don’t want to have to run your marathon on tired legs!
I always structure my taper in the same way, so today I thought I’d share with you how I go about doing that.
2 Week Taper
There are many variations of the taper out there, but for me I have always done best with a 2 week taper. I find that it is the perfect length of time to allow my body to recover while the first week of the taper still allows me to get in some small workouts just to keep my legs fresh.
This was an example I had shared in my previous post, but it breaks down how I structure my 2 weeks pretty well.
Is there a magic number to hit when reducing your mileage? No; however, I’ve always done it the same way. The first week is roughly a 20% reduction in total miles. I still structure the weeks pretty similar to what my body is used to (side note: I’ve found that the more the body can stay on schedule the better) I just reduce the overall miles.
The second week of the taper is typically a 40-50% reduction. It’s the biggest cut back and usually I will only do 1 mild “workout.” It’s usually something similar to what I’m used to during training but much shorter. For instance, in the above training cycle I did 800 meters followed by a 1.5 mile tempo and then another 800 meters. A 1.5 mile tempo is not long at all, but it allowed my legs to remember the feeling of marathon pace. This cycle I will do something simply off of effort since I do not have a time goal but for much less time than I normally do.
Double Digit Runs
This is completely dependent on what kind of mileage you are used to during your training, but even for the above cycle I did not run any double digits for the last two weeks. As someone who is injury prone I try to limit any excess stress that is unnecessary.
8 miles is usually my happy place for my last “long” run two weeks out. The week before a marathon I don’t do any kind of longer run, it’s all pretty short and sweet. It is long enough to feel like I’m putting in some work but not too long to where I’m pounding on my legs for too long.
Shake Out Run/Day Before
The two days before the marathon itself I always do the same way I just switch things around depending on what day the marathon falls on.
Two days before the marathon I do a small shake out run with strides. This is usually 1-2 miles VERY easy and then at the end I had maybe 4-6 strides just to keep my leg turnover going. I like to just allow my legs to feel the speed again since I haven’t done much the week before.
The day before the marathon I take off completely. I know this is also something that varies for each individual, but it has always worked for me and is the best way to get my legs completely recovered. I take it very easy, stretch, foam roll, and just allow my legs to get ready for the big day.
The two week taper is also a time where I begin to make some nutritional changes. I’ve been very open about my sensitive stomach when it comes to food. Stomach issues during a marathon is awful and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. In order to avoid that I start cutting out some foods the two weeks prior.
Two weeks out I try to cut down on fiber rich foods and stick to mostly protein and carbohydrates. I still eat pretty much what I like I just try to be more conscious about the amount of fiber I am putting in my body.
The week of the marathon is when it gets pretty strict, in all honesty it sucks but it keeps my stomach happy on race day and to me that is what is most important. I cut out all sauces, spicy foods, and fiber. I focus a lot on protein at the beginning of the week and then start turning more towards simple and complex carbohydrates.
The taper can be a fun and frustrating time. I always remind myself just how good it is at getting my body for race day and that always makes it worth while.
How do you do your marathon taper?