Your Two Oceans Tapering Begins Here!

Whether you're aiming simply to finish your first marathon or to nail a time goal, here's how to navigate those final weeks so you arrive at the starting line raring to go.

RW Editors |

After three or more months of hard training, you’d think runners would embrace the R&R of the taper.

Not always.

Both veterans and newcomers often find it difficult to scale back their mileage, kick up their feet, and coast into race day.

“Runners have to understand that they won’t be fat by Thursday or lose their fitness by Sunday” says exercise physiologist, Janet Hamilton. “One of the best gifts you can give yourself is well-rested legs on race day.”

To get those rested legs, coaches typically recommend a taper of two to three weeks. Whether you’re aiming simply to finish your first marathon or to nail a time goal, here’s how to navigate those final weeks so you arrive at the starting line raring to go.

Welcome to no-man’s-land – with 14 days to go, both your training gains and race goal may seem distressingly far off. Because the taper follows a fatigue-inducing period of high mileage, you’ll likely welcome these first days of cutting back.

During this week of tapering, you’ll reduce your mileage an additional 20 to 25%, which gives you plenty of free time to fret. “You might start doubting your ability this week,” says Kamphoff. Counter it by looking through your training log to see how far you’ve come, and how much your fitness has improved.

  • RUN IT:
    – Reduce each of your weekly runs by an additional 20 to 25%. Run everything easy.
    – During the final two to three weeks, it’s important that any speedwork be as race-specific as possible. Chill out for two days.

At this point, it’s all about staying rested and getting mentally prepared. This week, aim to sleep eight hours a night and stay off your feet as much as you can – reducing stress on your body will allow it to top off its glycogen and maintain adequate hydration levels. To combat nerves, schedule movie nights, start a new book, or visualise races you’ve enjoyed. Pump your mind full of positives,” says Kamphoff. Use all your senses to create how you’d like your race to go.

RELATED: How to Taper for Your First Half Marathon

  • RUN IT:
    This is a time of high nerves, and some athletes feel they need to run to calm themselves. Which is fine – but take it real easy and reduce your running to just four days this week. New marathoners may run no more than five or six kilometres at a time, while advanced runners may do a couple of eight-kays early in the week.
  • A very light, race-pace workout early in the week can help you stay sharp. Run two to six kilometres at marathon pace with a one-kay warm-up and cooldown. First-timers looking to simply finish shouldn’t worry about a sharpening workout. It’s more important to get to the start well-rested and injury-free.
  • If you’re running a flat marathon, avoid tackling too many hills during your taper. But if your race is hilly, continue running on rolling routes.

RELATED: Eating Well Through The Taper

Key workouts during your taper will sharpen you for any event

Taper length: 14 to 21 days
Key workout: Marathon-pace run—Three weeks out, run 8km at goal pace. Two weeks out, run 1.5km at 30 seconds faster than goal pace, then 1.5km at 30 seconds slower. Repeat two to four times.

Taper length: 10 to 14 days
Key workout: Pace run—In the last week of your taper, warm up, then run 4km at race pace.

Taper length: Seven to 10 days
Key workout: Long intervals—Three days out, run 2 – 3 x 800 meters at race pace with 400 to 800 meters recovery.

Taper length: Four to seven days
Key workout: Short intervals—Three days out, run 2-3 x 400 meters at race pace with 200 to 400 meters recovery.

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