Tapering for a marathon: How do you do it?

ABP Newport Marathon Festival | NEWPORT, WALES

If you’ve been following our ABP Newport Wales Marathon Training Guide, you’ll have noticed the miles are starting to drop as we encourage runners to start tapering. Before we can get to grips with how to do it, let’s understand what it is. Tapering is essential for reducing the symptoms of fatigue, but in normal speaking terms, it’s a time to chill out.

The important thing to remember, and the reason why many people are scared to taper, is that you do not ‘lose fitness’ if you ease off the training. If you’ve trained hard enough to reach this stage, your body won’t just suddenly lose it. If you’re an experienced marathon runner, you might know this all by now… but for the benefit of all our first-timers (which there are plenty of!), let’s take a look at how you might start to approach ‘the tapering period’ over the next two weeks.

Less miles – This one is quite simple really. You might have gotten used to hitting 20 miles, but now is the time to reduce your weekend running miles to something around 10 – 12 at the very maximum. Your training throughout the week may stay the same with the odd 4 miler here and there, and so long as you don’t go over this amount, you’ll be feeling in good shape come marathon day.

Reduce your pace – Many expert runners say that whatever you do to try to improve your running pace or times in the final couple of weeks won’t have much impact. Basically, it’s too late. That means you no longer have to worry about your pace. Think about slowing down your routine runs in order to start feeling more relaxed and take pressure of those aches and pains throughout your body.

Stop hill running – For this course in particular, practicing your hill-running technique will do more harm than good. That’s the beauty of our route. For your leg’s sake, think about planning your training routes on flat terrain. The easier it is for the knees now, the easier they’ll be able to deal with those final few miles on race day.

Think logistically – It sounds boring, but it’s a simple problem solving exercise played out through your head. A marathon is no simple feat and with that comes anxiety and feelings of ‘what if’ for some runners. Take a couple of weeks to think about what ‘could’ go wrong on the day, and find solutions and ways around those problems. Easing your anxieties will go a long way to improving the quality of your rest.

Don’t take unnecessary risks – If it’s raining, windy, foggy or any weather you’d perceive as dangerous, don’t risk it. Regrettably, injury is a given for many marathon runners. Muscle tissue can be damaged and long-term injuries can come back to haunt you. But weather-induced injuries are preventable. Don’t be that person who had to miss out because of a last minute slip!

Stay on top of your nutrition – Your training will change extensively throughout the tapering period, but your eating shouldn’t. Stay healthy, but keep the calorie count high. You’ll still be working hard, just not as hard. Your body needs to replenish its energy reserve to keep going and you don’t want anything in your diet to change so close to the day.

The essential thing to take from tapering is that nothing should change in your body other than the feeling of recovery and relaxation (as close to it as is possible!). You’re still running, just not as much… you’re still eating and you’re still prepared for the marathon distance. All that’s left to say is good luck, we’ll see you there!