A Lust for Life Marathon tapering tips

John O’Regan
By John O’Regan
Irish International Ultra Runner with 10 International appearances at 100K, 24-hrs and Ultra Trail. He has run marathons and ultra-marathons on seven continents plus the North Pole and is also 3 times National 24-hr Champion. To keep up with John you can follow him on Twitter @johnoregan777

Long runs are an essential part of Marathon training but with the Dublin Marathon getting closer it’s essential that you start to reduce the duration and frequency of your long runs.   This reduction in training volume is known as the Taper and the reason for this is to ensure your legs will be fresh on race day rather than tired or with any training related soreness.

The amount with which you cut back will be determined by how hard you’ve been training and the length of your long runs. If you’ve been training progressively and sensibly then the taper should start after your last long run which should also be your longest and this should be around 22 days before race day. As a suggestion your next ‘long run’ after peaking should be around 25% shorter and the week before the race your ‘long run’ should be 35% shorter than your longest run.

During this taper time you should try maintain some intensity during your midweek runs but you can also include some extra rest. Another reason for the taper is to help replenish your glycogen stores and if done right then you’ll arrive at the start line in the best possible condition to give it your best shot. Glycogen (carbohydrate) uptake and storage is an exercise induced response so it’s important to make the most of these runs during your taper as the little things will make the big difference come race day. You can help this process by doing just enough to achieve a training response but not too much that you finish feeling like you need time off. Get the balance wrong by training too hard and you will arrive at the start line with semi depleted fuel stores and not as prepared to do your best.

In the days and weeks before race day you can also make an extra effort to stay hydrated and maybe try to drink a little bit more than you usually do. It takes time for the body to fully hydrate and it’s not something that will happen just by drinking a few litres of water. It takes time and drinking small amounts and often will achieve better results.

With the reduction in training volume comes a reduced energy requirement so it might be worth keeping track of what you are eating and you may need to reduce your portion size to balance the equation. Chances are your training has had a knock on effect with your diet and if your eating habits have proved sufficient to fuel your training then I wouldn’t go making any changes. Eat what works for you, be careful with any changes.

One of the best and simplest things you can do during the taper to prepare yourself for Marathon day is to get more sleep. Sleep is when the body repairs and it’s when the training adaption happens. Improving your sleep and getting more of it is probably the simplest ways of preparing yourself for the big day. You’ll probably have a restless night the night before the race but that won’t matter too much if you have managed to sleep well in the nights beforehand.

My rule during Marathon week is if you wouldn’t get up an hour early to watch something on TV then you shouldn’t stay up an hour later to watch it. Try to stay off your feet as much as possible and try get to bed as soon as you can. If getting to bed early is something you struggle with then at least try have an early night the night before the race and try wake without an alarm clock.

The Taper is a personal thing that needs practicing and from my observation the mistakes are made through panic brought on by pre- race nerves. You need to trust your training and think of it like going into an exam. The training is your study and the race is the exam but in this case you know the question that will be asked.

Marathons are very positive and sociable event so there’s no need to go stressing although that’s easier said than done. Remember that you’ll be surrounded by likeminded people of differing abilities and the course will be lined with people cheering you on and wanting to achieve your goal. Everyone carries some fear going into the event so don’t worry it isn’t just you.

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