"When should I be tapering my Marathon training?"
This is a question I get asked a lot from clients who are training for the marathon. Often I hear of the many training programmes online, that runners are following, and in my opinion everyone seems to leave their longest run until too close to the "big day".
So when is the right time to taper your training and start easing down for your Marathon?
Its not uncommon to hear of people building their long runs up over a period of weeks and months, only to find that they squeeze their 21-22 mile run in 2 to 3 weeks before the race, and then wonder why they have running injuries. Most programmes that I have come across only work forwards to the race, not backwards.
In my experience as a competitive athlete, who has been running for club and county over a 25 year period, runners should be working backwards from the race day, in order to prepare a sound training plan.
Working backwards from race day to their longest "peak run", it surprises and shocks many when I say that you should start tapering with 6 weeks to go before the marathon. By tapering I mean reducing the distance of your long run week by week. So, lets say you run 21-22 miles 6 weeks before your race.
6 weeks to go - 21-22 miles
5 weeks to go - 18 miles (max)
4 weeks to go - 16 miles (max)
3 weeks to go - 14 miles (max)
2 weeks to go - 12 miles (max)
1 week to go - 10 miles (max)
Above is a tapering process that I followed on the way to running a 2.45.02 Marathon debut at Brighton in 2010. Each week that I reduced my long run distance, I actually increased the quality and speed of my run, but never running at Marathon race pace or above. That, I left to my track and tempo sessions, where I could break down running into manageable parts or reps, allowing myself recovery in between.
I could get into a lot more detail regarding fuelling, what types of interval/repetition training to do, but for the purpose of this blog I just wanted to share with you my thoughts about when the right time to taper is. After all, I learned from an international coach and runner who ran a 2.11 marathon!!
Furthermore the reason for sharing this information with you is that I believe many runners injure themselves by not allowing themselves enough recovery before the race, or through a lack of confidence in their training.......always thinking more is better!!
Another sound reason to allow yourself this tapering period is that if you do end up training hard and long right up to race day, there is no room or time for error if there are runs you miss through illness or injury. You should never try and jump straight back into training at the level you left it at after days or weeks of rest. Instead, taking a week to reintroduce easy runs and building up slowly is important so you don't end up back out of action straight away.
My intention is not to try and contradict or rubbish other peoples ideas or theories, but to share with you another option to your training. If you have any questions or comments related to this blog, please feel free to leave a (clean) comment, and I will do my best to answer you.
All the best and train smart!