|Yep, just sitting around tapering ... not running ...|
tossing an orange in the air
The conventional wisdom has been to drastically cut your mileage about 10-14 days before the big race, to heal up, conserve energy, and build glycogen stores - which all sounds very logical. But I would bet that every set of eyes reading this post has one or more horror stories about how this process adversely affected their race. And count me among that contingent. There have been several marathons where I felt like I was killing it in training, then the taper period rolled around and my body went into a weird lull, and I didn't run my best race.
The flip side of this coin is not tapering at all, which I've also tried for a couple of races. I've actually ran marathons after running a 20 miler the weekend before, and training full tilt until two days before the race. I wouldn't recommend this approach. My strategy was to treat the race like any other training run, with a few miles tacked onto the end. But on most of these occasions, I stood at the starting line exhausted before the the clock ever started. For me, there is just something about race day that takes a lot more energy, even if I'm not running all out.
So what do we do with this tricky two weeks before the race? For recent races, I've definitely leaned more toward the "maximum rest/minimal running" approach. In fact it's what I'm doing for my upcoming marathon ... but I'm just not sure this produces the best results. I know drastically cutting the weekly mileage while trying to maintain the intensity is the most commonly held pre-marathon practice. But I've never been a full believer in the reasoning. There are just so many traditional approaches changing in the world of marathon training, and I wonder if this one doesn't need revamped as well. For example, not long ago runners would fast the week before a race, now that seems crazy. So where is written in stone that we must break so drastically from our training during taper, that it feels like we've actually lost fitness by the time the race rolls around.
|Fairly traditional taper period with reduction in mileage two weeks before the marathon|
I understand the philosophy behind the taper period. Believe me, I've studied it like it was my job. But I just don't fully buy into the notion that as we're motoring along in our training, and hitting on all cylinders ... we basically just shut it down. And then, after being somewhat dormant for 10-14 days ... almost completely from a "cold start" ... we open the throttle full bore and run longer and harder than we have in a long time. That just doesn't really make sense. It would be similar to studying for a huge test for a months, taking two weeks of vacation while barely cracking a book, and then showing up on test day expecting total recall and 100% clarity. I really don't think most of us would produce our highest possible score, and similarly, I just don't believe that we haven't lost a little bit of fitness during the taper period. Not to mention the endless mind games this little running vacation plays on our confidence.
|Tapering approach I'm thinking about trying that moves the two week taper period to earlier in the training|
The main thing I think I've learned about marathon training tapering is to simply listen to my body. Right now I feel like I'm in a really good place for the race next weekend. I'm strong, healthy, a little overweight, but pretty confident about running in Idaho. But I've had success in two recent marathons by taking a lot of time off before the race, so I'm going to stick with that approach for now. But I would love to hear everyone's thoughts on why they do or do not taper. It seems like it's different for almost every runner. Have a great weekend!
... be great today