All the fuss about Tapering. What is it? How is it done and why it is and can be beneficial to you the marathoner are some of the questions I’ll attempt to to shed some light on while I try to get you, “Speedy,” – that would be me – to slow it down some in order to bring it home on marathon day.
To Taper or Tapering, with respect to marathon training, is the process whereby runners reduce their weekly mileage and effort in the final two to three weeks before the marathon so as to be completely recovered from previous workouts and be rested for the big day. Sucessful runners across the board swear by this as a vital part of training and preparation while it’s aim is to secure your marathon goal; even that of first-time marathoners.
The Tapering Phrase usually consists of the two weeks (sometimes three) prior to race day. During this time a concentrated effort is made to ease up on the long and hard runs, usually reducing workouts by as much as 25-50% leading up to race day. For example, for a two-week period, long runs which generally consisted of 20-24 miles should be reduced to 14-16 miles in the first week with two rest days while the second week should ideally be an easy running week with -say- one 10 mile run with three leg-rest days. Reduce weekly mileage so that runs average between 5-7 miles on other running days with the week leading up to the marathon consisting of less mileage than the week prior. One may be tempted to push it a bit, since with the cut back you might be feeling stronger and think you can go faster and longer, but coaches stress that this is where it is important to stick to method over ability so as to avoid injury and compromise on optimal muscle repair. It is wise to note that there is nothing you can do in those two weeks leading up to the marathon that will make you perform better on race day. You’ve already done it all so resist the urge to add anything new or do any more than – just enough.
Benefits of Tapering
1. Provides ample opportunity for muscle restoration and repair while allowing you to get some much needed rest from a rigorous training routine.
2. Decreases the risk of injury and setbacks.
3. Encourages a sustainable training methodology that secures your race day plan and increases your chances at goal realization due to optimal performance.
4. Allows you time and energy to listen to and care for your body, which time may not have allowed for before.
5. Allows you to place yourself in a total state of preparedness for marathon day. Here the focus is on proper nutrition, sleep, rest and getting the necessities together for the event.
While tapering is no exact science and largely depends on the individual, their needs and the distance of the event; it is a fact that some measure of this process can benefit you the runner. Be open to making the method work for you by tailoring it to suit your needs. For example, instead of long, hard runs, consider short sprints to regulate speed and bursts of energy. Given that this is my sixth time around, I’d say you have it on good authority that it works to maximize your marathon day performance and in every instance makes you an all-round better runner. So talk aside, let’s taper on!
References: Runner’s World, MarathonTraining.com