Category Archives: taper

How to Marathon Taper

Wow. I can’t believe it is less than 6 days from the Rock & Roll Las Vegas Marathon! The time has really flown by the last couple weeks!

The race is definitely starting to feel real. I have printed out my confirmation codes, and have planned rides to the airport. And I’m getting SO excited…and a little nervous too.

Tapering hasn’t been too bad so far, but I’m starting to get antsy this week. I am ready for a long run! Luckily since I was away over the weekend, it was easy to have things to do instead of running.

I realized not everyone may have done a taper before, so I thought I’d give a little explanation of the how’s and why’s of tapering.

Why Taper?
Basically, the point of a taper before a race is to let your muscles fully recover. Additionally, you can top off your glycogen stores, and reduce your chances of injury during the race. Swimmers who completed a taper before a race improved their performance by 3%, and increased their arm strength and power by 17.7% and 24.6%. In a marathon, this 3% difference could work out to a decrease in time of 5 to 10 minutes!!

I have also read that the key to a good taper is to reduce mileage, but keep the same intensity (pace). One study showed that keeping high intensity but lowering volume resulted in a running time to fatigue increased by 22%. In addition, although you might feel a little lazy with all your resting, you won’t lose any aerobic capacity!

How to Taper?
For a half marathon, I usually do a shorter run the week before my race, and the week of my race I take things easier (slow my pace a bit). I also try not to run (or only do an easy 2ish miles as a shakeout run) the day before the race.

For a marathon, the time of the taper is usually extended a little longer. I have reduced my mileage for the last two weekends. Over a period of three weeks, it is suggested to cut down to 75-80% of my peak training in week 1, then 50-60% in week 2, and to about 30% in week 3 (the week of the race).

Runs in the final week should be less than 4 miles. It is important to keep any runs the week of the race short and slow (1.5-2 mins/mile slower than marathon pace), even though your muscles feel well rested and will likely want to go faster.  Additionally, you should not increase workouts in other areas like cross training or weightlifting — again to provide lots of rest time and not tire yourself out. Try to stay off your feet and rest as much as possible.

Throughout the tapering process you should especially be focusing on eating well, staying hydrated, and getting to bed early! This is most critical in the final week.

Every person deals with the taper a bit differently, or may need a different amount of time (we are all different, right?). For my first marathon, I’m following the general guidelines, and if I think this is too long for me, I could adjust how long my taper lasts if I do another marathon.

More Info
Here are some links that can provide more details about tapering:
Pete Pfitzinger
Brian Mac
Runner’s World
Training Science

Mind Games
I think it is also important to focus on the mental picture during the last few weeks. Remind yourself that you are physically capable and trust in your training. I like to picture myself having a great race, or pushing through the tough parts of the race to get myself ready.

Anyone have other tips for tapering?

Starting the Taper

Now that I’ve done my last 20 miler before the marathon, I’m officially in taper mode. This mainly means that my long runs won’t be quite so long. I run three times per week, so for most of my runs, my legs are fairly recovered. I will be continuing to run at this consistency for the next few weeks as well.

In the next two weeks, I have two more runs planned:
1) This Saturday is the Davis Turkey Trot Half Marathon. I am still trying to decide if I will run this at tempo pace (~my half marathon pace) or slower (just faster than or about marathon pace).
2) Run to Feed the Hungry on Thanksgiving morning. I talked about this run a few days ago, but this will definitely be run at a nice, easy, relaxed pace. This run will be for fun and enjoying the day.

Ideally, I will also do one other longer run of around 8 miles the week before the race, but I’m not sure if I will be able to fit that in with the Thanksgiving holiday (Ry and I are going away for the weekend). Many websites suggest to run 80% of your volume three weeks out, 60% two weeks out and 33% the week of the race.

I will be doing my best to eat healthy, especially with Thanksgiving and some travel thrown in the mix. But at least carb loading gives me a good excuse to eat lots of mashed potatoes and stuffing! I will also be focusing on hydration. Sometime I forget to drink water during the day, so my goal will be to drink at least one full bottle (I carry a big water bottle with me every day) by the end of the work day.

The next two weeks I also plan to do this series of hip and glute exercises (great video and exercise explanations, by the way!). I noticed during Clarksburg that my glutes and hamstrings were really getting tight, and I could feel a little bit of IT Band soreness. None of it was anything to be concerned about, but with 3 weeks left, I could do 2 solid weeks of exercises and stretches to make sure I am strong for this race.

How do you taper for a marathon? 

Any thoughts on my pace for Saturday’s race? I could use some advice…