The last few months have been spent thinking about training, doing training, planning the next training run. “Training, training, training”. Now though is the time to do anything but hard training.
This is because the miles you run over the last 3-4 months are now in the bank, and need to wait there until the start line. This doesn’t mean you stop completely though! Not least because you’re so used to training, it’ll feel bizarre not to do it.
Tapering gives your body a chance to repair itself before the race. All those long runs you’ve done will have impacted your body and it needs this time to repair so it’s fresh for the race. Not tapering properly will probably mean you’ll be even more tired on the day, and will put in a much worse performance than you hoped.
If you’re feeling like you might have an injury, or any sort of niggle, tapering will help it to recover far better than continuing to run on it.
Tapering will also support the carbohydrate stores in your body. Each person can only carry a limited amount of carbohydrate in their muscles and this will have reduced with all your training. By reducing your training, but keeping your intake of carbs the same, you’ll be able to replenish how much carbohydrate is stored so you can have the maximum amount of energy on race day.
How long should I taper for?
It depends on how intense your training has been. The more miles you’ve done, and the more intense your training has been, the longer you should taper for. Ideally, tapering will start three weeks before the marathon.
What does tapering look like?
The distance you’re running should reduce the most. With three weeks to go you should run at 80% of the training you did the week before. With two weeks left this should reduce further to 60% and then in the last week it can come down to 40%.
Your intensity should also reduce to ensure you’re not damaging your muscles in the final few days.
If this is your first marathon it may seem strange to reduce the training so sharply, but fitness take around 6 weeks to be completely depleted so reducing it slowly for three weeks is perfect as you’ll maintain the endurance you’ve built up, and still feel fresh on race day.
Stick to a schedule if you can throughout the last two weeks. Have set days you’ll do your runs on, don’t start new activities that could risk injury like DIY, and get plenty of sleep and rest. This will help you keep focused on what you’re doing and will save your energy for the big day.