By Alex H.
It is now the homestretch of Philly Marathon training, and the work has been done! Within the last 3 weeks of your goal race, your body is not going to make any new major adaptations that will help you on race day. You can sit back and take solace in the fact you have worked hard and are ready for the day you have been training for the last few months. But do not fall in to the trap of resting too soon and losing out on the fitness you have worked so hard for. Instead, follow this taper plan to get the most out of your hard work!
It is generally agreed upon that your longest and fastest long run will take place three weeks out from your goal race, give or take. If you have been working up to a 22 miler, for example, and your race was on the 4th Sunday of the month, you would run that 22 miler on the 1st Sunday of the month. That will lead you right into your first week of the taper. That first taper week, the mileage should cut back volume about 10% from your highest weeks. This reduction will come from a mixture of your easy days and your long run. The goal is to allow the body to begin to absorb the training, but because the marathon is almost 100 percent aerobic, you don’t want to strip too much of your mileage when you are not racing for another few weeks.
The second week of the taper, the mileage will cut another 10%, so if you had been holding 40 miles per week, your first taper week would be about 36 and your second taper week would be about 32. Additionally, this week is when you want to strip some intensity from your workouts. If your go to sessions have been marathon paced tempos and you were hanging around 8 miles at marathon pace for your workouts, try two sets of four miles at marathon pace, or maybe even two sets of 3 miles at marathon pace, and one set of two miles at marathon pace. Make sure the workouts are still focusing on marathon pace, though, as you do not want to run some fast 400 repeats at 5k pace to “feel quick.” This is a common mistake runners make. The goal is to feel quick and get some turnover work in, but ideally an athlete will focus on just marathon pace for the weeks leading up to a marathon and running at 5k pace will tap into a completely different energy system your body hasn’t used for a while. Remember when I said you are not going to be making any new adaptations these last few weeks? Running at 5k pace is a new stressor that you don’t want to try too close to the race!
That third taper week, starting the Monday of your marathon, strip mileage by another 20%. Going off our 40 miles per week scenario, this week would be 24 miles. Make sure to also “front load” your week, where you run most of your mileage the first few days of the week and are just doing some easy jogs the days before the race. Your last workout should be three or four days out from the race and should just be a workout to have the body feel good and stay in a rhythm. You might ask why you would even do a workout this week, and I understand that thought process. However, the body has been in a rhythm for months and our bodies crave that consistency. Something like 3 to 4 miles at marathon pace should feel very easy and do the trick!
The last three weeks are essentially just going through the motions and trying not to get sick or injured. We don’t want to do to little and lose fitness while also having our metabolic system thrown off from a drastic reduction of activity, but we are not trying to create more fitness. The best things you can do for yourself are to sleep well, eat well, wash your hands, think good thoughts, and enjoy the ending of a long and rewarding process.
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