This article was published on April 14th, 2014
Training for a marathon is a lot of hard work, time, and dedication. In 17 weeks, you can go from running a 10k to a full marathon. After building a house of endurance, strength, mental and speed, the final, and one of the hardest phases of training to comprehend for first-time marathon runners, is marathon tapering.
Marathon tapering is the final period of marathon training where the body gets the opportunity to repair itself and prepare for race day. There is a dramatic drop in distance and work-outs in the final training phase. This period is essential in order for the body to be in top shape for the big race.
Most people get the urge to deviate from the training schedule, but you have to trust it. Over the past 3.5 months, you’ve worked hard and despite your disbeliefs, your body really is ready to run a marathon, without any extra training.
An important part of tapering is mental preparation. Research the race day details, including how you are getting to the start line, review the race route, and plan your race day strategy. Determine which clothing you are going to wear (only wear clothing you’ve trained in), how much nutrition you need, hydration, and where you will meet friends and family at the finish line.
During marathon tapering period, recognize that the drop in distance means less calories are being burned each week, which means you need to decrease the size of meals and number of snacks throughout the day.
In the final week, avoid all caffeine, alcohol, and fats, including deep fried foods. Focus on increasing intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, and carbohydrates. In the final days, add extra salt and potassium to your diet.
Rest is a key component of marathon tapering. Going to be a bit earlier each night and allowing the body to recovery is important. Increasing your protein consumption will also help repair damaged muscles.
Phantom pains are not unusual during the marathon tapering period. Phantom pains have the sense of real pain, but you cannot actually pin-point where they are coming from. This is because the muscles are repairing themselves at the microscopic level, which are known to cause cramps or pains. During training, aches and pains are normal, but with the reduced mileage, pains you’d typically ignore become sensations which are exaggerated to the point of insanity.
During taper period, it’s good to spend the evenings catching up on light housework, errands that do not include a lot of time on your feet, and catching up with friends over a cup of mint tea.
Visualize the race, mentally prepare for race day, and get you race plan ready. Enjoy the downtime!