For some runners the tapering comes as a relief at the end of a tough marathon training regime, but for others it is an unwelcome rest to the now addicted runner who must learn to step down their mileage. Whatever your take on this, the general consensus is that tapering is an essential part of training and should be factored in before the training begins.
What is tapering?
Tapering is the term used to describe the reduction of miles and time spent running to replenish energy stores so that the athlete is in the best shape possible for race day. It usually refers to the last 2-4 weeks of the marathon training plan and is dependent on personal preference and how long the athlete has been training for. Usually athletes aim to complete their longest run just before tapering and then reduce their mileage by 30-40% per week in the lead up to the race. For example, if the athlete has run 54 miles in their last week of training and had 3 weeks of tapering planned with 30% reduction each week, their tapering mileage would be as follows:
- Tapering week 1: 37.8 miles
- Tapering week 2: 26.46 miles
- Tapering week 3: 18.52 miles
Tapering not only refers to the reduction of miles but the swap from burning energy to gaining energy. This means that the last couple of weeks before the marathon, the athlete should be increasing their intake of carbohydrate rich foods such as pasta or rice.
Allow yourself to recover – If you are injured or fatigued, the tapering process is important. Three weeks of laying off the hard miles will allow the body to catch up and all that preparation won’t be for nothing.
Don’t be tempted to ‘skip’ the taper – It is tempting if you are running well to just keep on running. It is even more tempting if you didn’t quite manage to hit your long run target (e.g. ran 16 miles instead of 20), to squeeze it in to you tapering time. The advice would be to consolidate what you have managed to achieve and always factor in the taper. Tiring your legs out to the point of fatigue will not prepare you for the race.
Mentally prepare – Know the course, write down possible danger points and prepare yourself for any hills. This is the time to really think about the challenge ahead so you’re not caught out unexpectedly.
Please note: The above information is for guidance only, tapering requirements can vary depending on the event you are training for and maybe tailored to your individual needs.
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