The Marathon Taper

You’ve put in months of dedicated hard work during your marathon build up; long endurance runs, tempo workouts, lung busting interval training, maybe you even went on a training camp for a week or two to really get yourself into shape. The hard work is done, the hay is in the barn as they say.

Now comes the easy part, right? It’s 10days to go until your target event at London Marathon, and all you have to do is sit back, relax and wait for the big day.

Except, we all know that the marathon taper is not as simple as that. Whilst it should be a relaxing period where you can ease off and start looking forward to the mountains of carbs you are going to force feed yourself next week, it can in fact be a period of great uncertainty and doubt.

Have you done enough training? Would one more hard session be a good idea? Can I make up for that long run I missed? Should I just sit around and do nothing and save my energy?

As the marathon race day approaches, it is normal to feel some nerves and to have some doubts, but these doubts can bring with them the possibility of making bad decisions. Perhaps the biggest mistake is trying to fit in one more hard training session or long run to make up for something you missed earlier in the program.

Maybe an injury cost you a few weeks training during the build up, or you missed a key long run due to a family occasion or work commitment. The temptation might now be there to use the final weekend to try and play catch up. Don’t do it!

Keep in mind that from a physiological perspective, it is going to take approximately 10days to see any benefit from a given workout. So if you are racing London Marathon next weekend there is very little you can do between now and race day to improve your fitness, it is a case of getting your body in the best condition to race with the fitness you already have.

The marathon taper is really not as simple as it might seem at first glance. With that in mind we’ve put together out top five tips for your final marathon build up to ensure that you don’t jeopardise your hard work by making unnecessary mistakes in the final days before the race.

You’ve trained hard up to this point, but now is the time to ease back and get ready for race day

Top Marathon Taper Tips:

1) Reduce Volume

Run increasingly less as marathon race day approaches. Don’t be tempted to squeeze in one more hard workout or long run. At this stage, rather than improving your fitness, you simply risk carrying fatigue over into race day.

2) Reduce Intensity

This doesn’t always mean running slower in workouts but rather stopping workouts before they become exhausting. Run 50-60% of your normal workout at the same speed – stopping before the heavy fatigue kicks in. If your usual workout consists of 10x1k intervals then consider 5-6x1k at the same speed.

3) Maintain Frequency

It is a common mistake to drastically cut the frequency of your runs, this can lead to a sluggish feeling on race day. Continue with your usual running frequency and reduce the volume & intensity as per tips 1 & 2. Don’t drastically reduce the number of runs you do, just make them shorter and easier. Your body will thrive on the routine, and sitting around the house at times you usually go running can lead you to feel nervous and overthink the approaching race.

4) Include Race Pace Running

Help your body to fine tune exactly how your planned race pace feels. This is especially useful to do during the taper period as it may be the first time you have practiced this pace on fresh and rested legs. Knowing how race pace feels will help to ensure you do not start the race too aggressively;  A bad move in a marathon.

5) Include Fast Running

Running slowly and easily will leave you feeling stale and heavy. Include post run strides or mini fartleks within your last runs before the race. This will keep your legs feeling snappy and fast leading into the race.

Keep these 5 factors in mind when planning out your final training leading into next weekends race and you won’t go too far wrong. Do not be tempted to push one final hard workout. The training plans of the top elite runners, currently finalising their preparation in the high altitude training camps in Kenya and Ethiopia will be following similar guidelines.

Good luck for your race and check back in the coming days for our race week and race day tips.

Click here for a PDF download of the 5 Marathon Taper Tips.

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