The marathon taper
A runner’s relationship with the taper is an emotional rollercoaster, treated by many with suspicion, even some moodiness! The best way to treat it, as with any relationship, is to put your trust in it, and go with the love option!
So what’s it all about anyway? Here’s my relationship advice for tapering:
Don’t be fickle:
For the past 16 weeks or so, it’s been hard getting out of the door to do the training. Now it’s time to rest and you realise you became a bit addicted to the training, and you feel bereft cutting it down. Tapering is a new phase of training to embrace.
We need a break:
You and your running need to ease off now. You’ve done your training. If you didn’t manage to fit in as many long runs as you wanted, it’s too late now. You can’t really get fitter in the last 2 weeks, but you can definitely make yourself too tired by cramming in more miles.
Keep it healthy:
Do what you can to avoid getting ill in the week before. I can speak from bad experience here. 16 weeks hard training for Rome marathon, some spare time the week before – why not have a long lunch with friends and face paint several children? Bring on a bad cold a few days later, followed by one of the hardest and slowest marathons I’ve ever run.
Heal and rest:
Tapering allows time to rest those aching legs, and let muscle damage from training heal. Weirdly, you can sometimes feel “phantom aches” – odd niggles or pains. This isn’t lack of training. It’s both the healing of your tired muscles, and also the fact that you’re super aware of how you’re feeling in this key time.
And no, substituting running with really hard spinning/ Zumba/ boxaspinayoga or whatever other class, is also not good, especially if you’re not used to it. You’ll regret getting exhausted, or worse, pulling a tight muscle.
Much better to keep stretching and using your foam roller and/or some gentle yoga or pilates to keep you flexible. If you have regular sports massage, your last one should be about a week before, or more gentle if it’s just a few days before.
Instead of worrying about not running, the taper is actual a perfect time for some mental workouts to prepare you for your race. The elites, and lots of successful “normal” runners visualise running their perfect race, which helps set you up for doing it for real. Visualise your ideal finish time on the clock for extra motivation. (You can use AOYS race time goal postcards to help you).
You can also focus on writing lists, which surely makes us all feel better?! Write down what you’ll need to pack and wear; what time you need to get up and leave. (Even easier, you can get the AOYS race checklist). It’s amazing how your brain can be so focused on the race on the day (a good thing), that you can forget the essentials like your trainers (a bad thing!) So write it down.
I hope that helps you learn to love your taper. It should get you to start line feeling relaxed, rested and raring to go!
If you’ve got any questions about tapering, or just want to share how it’s going for you, do add a comment below.