Sunday, May 3, 2015

Why You Should Taper Before a Marathon

I am officially in my taper.

I'll admit it.  I LOVE when I finally get to the taper.  At this point in time my body is tired and ready to turn down the mileage.

Tapering is important because it allows your body to be as rested as possible so you can perform at your maximum potential.  You should not only cut back on the mileage, but also the intensity of your workouts.  Your easy runs should be taken at a much more conservative pace.  

Your marathon training plan should begin to taper three weeks before your goal race.  Your mileage should decrease by 10-15% that first week.  Two weeks out, your mileage should go down by 25-30%.  Your final week of tapering should be focused on getting enough rest.  Your daily runs should also decrease by 50% of your normal volume.

For many runners tapering can be difficult because of the fear of gaining weight and losing fitness.  However, your body will no longer make physiological changes to training. These adaptions take six weeks to effect your training, so high intensity workouts will not improve your performance. 

During the taper you want to be sure to include specific workouts.  Short, speed oriented runs are not going to affect your marathon.  You should, however, try to include moderate distance runs (think 8-10 miles) at marathon pace to help you hone in on your pacing.  My marathon training plan includes 1-2 workouts at marathon pace a week and removes all other speed work.  The rest of my 3 runs during the week are run easy.

Your taper should not only be about reducing your mileage.  Tapering should also include focusing on increasing your sleep, planning out your race day, finalizing any travel plans, hydrating, and your nutrition (source).  Your calorie intake should be cut to account for your reduced mileage.  You should increase your carbohydrate and fat intake during your taper to help restore glycogen levels.  It is also recommended you remove cross training from the final two-three weeks of marathon training. 

The hardest part of the taper for me is the mind games.  I start to worry about competing at my race, especially when I get comfortable with the reduced mileage.  With all the stress relief from my high mileage weeks, my nerves start to show.  Part of tapering should also include mental preparation.  What will you do if the weather is miserable?  Your previous injury starts to at up or you have side stitches during the race.  Preparation for race day during your taper will help to reduce and race day anxieties you start to feel.  I like to spend more time reading and taking Peyton for walks during my newly found free time.  It helps me keep my mind off of my impeding marathon and helps to decrease race anxieties.

Most of all, enjoy it!  You've made it this far and you've completed the bulk of your training.  Now it's time to rest and get ready for what is going to be a great race day!

Yesterday was beautiful day here in Chicago.  Chris, Peyton, and I went to my mom's house to enjoy her backyard.  Peyton loves having the freedom to run and sniff as she pleases.  My mom also has a dog that Peyton likes to run around with.

I am TWO WEEKS away from my marathon!  Today's run was really challenging, but helped to reinforce and solidify that I am ready for my race.

18 miles
2 miles easy, 14 @ marathon pace + 20 seconds per mile, 2 miles easy
8:12/mile average

The miles at marathon pace averaged around 8:05-8:10 per mile.  Those easy miles were run really easy.  My final two miles were around a 9 minute mile pace.

How was your weekend?

Do you like or dislike to taper?


  1. Been a pretty good weekend. Weather here in central illinois has been great.

    One of the best parts was finally getting a run in after 3 weeks off. I got this bad chest cold that has been going around down here. The doctor said it was taking about three weeks to clear up and he was right.

    The run was lame but I was so happy to be out in the almost 80 degrees and not burning my lungs off from the cold air.

    1. Glad you were able to finally get out! It was really nice here as well.

  2. I'm coming to Chicago in October to run my first marathon! Have you ever run that one before? I've planned a 3 week taper in my marathon training plan. Right now my longest LR before my taper is 23 miles (minimum 20).

    1. This year will be my fourth time running Chicago. It's a fantastic race!