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Friday, April 19, 2013

(How To) Taper for a Marathon

While I completely understand the need for a taper, it seems really hard (mentally) and the rules seem a little confusing.   I did a bunch of research and here is what I found for tapering.  

* Do your last long run three weeks before your marathon

* Two weeks before cut your mileage to about 50-75% of what you were normally doing

* One week before cut your mileage to about a third 

I  am a control freak, and I always always need a plan, and a schedule laid out in front of me.... so I put together a schedule for May (trying) to follow these guidelines.  

3 Weeks Out :  22 Miles Long Distance  10 mid week
2 Weeks Out : 10 Miles Long Distance 8 mid week
1 Week Out: 5 Miles Long Distance 6 mid week
Week Of: Two 3 mile runs, two rest days before race.

Other important aspects while tapering:  Maintain a healthy diet high in carbs and protein, drink lots of fluids, get 8 hours of sleep a night. 

Three weeks  of tapering that seems like a lot right?  I was a little worried about losing all of my fitness until I read this:  Patti Finke, who coaches 250 maratoners a year says "What they don't realize is that in those last few weeks, it's the rest more than the work that makes you strong.  And studies show that your aerobic capacity, the best gauge of all fitness, doesn't change at all"

Is anyone else surprised by this?  It is good to know that 3 weeks off wont ruin 3 months of training.   It is just going to be a mental struggle to stay relaxed and keep my "long runs" low distance.  I know I will want to run longer distances to prove to myself I can-  I will have to fight this urge!

The main point of a taper is to minimize fatigue.  The last three weeks is not the time to add in more runs, or fight the mental battle of long distance, that should be done long before.  The last three weeks you want your body to repair muscle damage from training, replenish your carbohydrate storage in your muscles.  

If you are like me you have made it this far (almost) injury free! (darn cankle) Spend the last three weeks celebrating that instead of risking a new injury?


  1. 3 weeks is way too long for a taper, even 2 weeks is excessive. I generally just taper intensity, but not mileage. You're not going to do yourself any favors by cutting your mileage in half for weeks and toeing the line on race day with heavy, slow legs. I also like to do a shake out run the day before the race with some pick-ups thrown in to get myself ready to race.

    Actually, I don't know any experienced racer who does a "textbook" taper. Getting extra sleep and hydration will matter more on race day than anything else.

  2. Thanks for the advice ! Nice to hear advise from actual runners instead of what a few articles say! I'm still battling some bad ankle pain and swelling - and had a reallllly bad allergic reaction last week so I am probably going to have to defer my marathon until next week unfortunately


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