What’s so special about the Marathon Taper?!
Alright! You’ve put in the mileage, the months of training, given up (or maybe cut back on) alcohol and sweets, spent more time than fathomable in ice baths, taken care of your body with physical therapy and an individual injury prevention program (or plan to next season!), and finally you’ve arrived at the taper. The amazing and also dreaded taper. The taper can last from 4 days before race day to 3 weeks before race day – depending on your individual needs and your training program.
Ideally, the taper includes decreasing your overall running volume enough to get you fresh and ready to give 100% on race day, and doesn’t cut back too much to where you feel sluggish or out of shape. This taper will cut down the overall volume of mileage to 60-80% of your average weekly pre-taper mileage. The other thing to keep in mind regarding your quality of running over the last few weeks before race day is how specific your running is for the upcoming marathon. You should spend your quality runs focusing on marathon pace and continue getting your body used to marathon pace, rather than doing too many short intervals or fartleks.
Finally, you may feel hungrier as you taper and be worried about gaining weight before the marathon. To avoid weight gain while increasing your fuel intake, be sure to continue eating good, nutritious food. Don’t give in to the cravings of sweets or salty junk food. Eat nutritious snacks including vegetables, nuts and seeds and eat small meals / snacks regularly – five times a day, rather than large meals that are harder to digest and will make you feel more sluggish (especially when you’re not running as much). Don’t eat too large of a meal the night before the race. The old carbo-loading days the night before (like eating as much spaghetti as possible like we did in high school) are over. Eat a regular-sized meal the night before, and include your healthy carbohydrates throughout the week leading up to the race, not only the night before. And last, but definitely not least, stay hydrated by drinking water.
How to Survive the Taper without going Crazy
• Visualize your race: think about the course, when you will drink, where the hills and turns are located, where you will have the most cheering and support on the course and visualize how your body will feel awesome and strong throughout the race.
• Watch an inspirational movie, like Spirit of the Marathon to get pumped up.
• Get extra sleep. Take naps. Relax before bedtime. Try to sleep well.
• Do some extra stretching, foam rolling, or yoga. Get loose and feel those strong muscles getting ready to race.
• Choose a marathon day mantra. My favorite is “leave it all on the course”. Others’ include: “crave the pain” and “yes you can!” Find one that motivates you and then tell yourself that mantra throughout the race to keep you mentally strong.
Enjoy the taper and you will enjoy race day so much more!