Whether this is your first or fifth marathon, it’s always vital to remember the importance of tapering.
What is this tapering business?
Tapering is cutting down your training gradually in the final weeks before the marathon. This allows your mind and body time to recover so they’re in prime condition come race day.
For marathon training, the recommended taper period is three weeks, as this should coincide with completing your last long training run (which is when you’ll be up to about 20-23 miles.)
A key mistake that runners make during these last 3 weeks is training too much, which can then affect marathon performance. It’s good to remember that physiological adaptions to training take a minimum of 6 weeks. That means taking on hard training sessions in these weeks is not going to improve your performance – you’re already the best you can be at this stage.
Cutting back the mileage
When tapering for a marathon, you should look at doing just 80% of your normal training three weeks prior to the race, 60% two weeks prior and just 40% the week before the marathon (this should include the race itself so the final week's volume is very light indeed.)
Some people do have concerns that fitness may drop during this period, but it doesn’t. Think about how long your fitness took to build this up at the start - it will stay with you for a good while yet.
A few top things to remember:
- Rest well during this phase – This is the time for your body to recover and prepare. Making sure you get plenty of sleep is vital too.
- Do what you can – Your body may start to struggle at times during the taper and it’s not uncommon to feel lethargic. Just do what you can, it all helps.
- Work on your focus –During these last sessions, train yourself to stay focused, even when you’re exhausted. You’ll need that skill come race day.