Advice on how to prepare in the final weeks before your marathon
With a number of spring marathons, including the Virgin Money London Marathon, taking place in the coming weeks, coach Nick Anderson has shared his top tips for an effective taper.
“Tapering is all about being physically and mentally kind to yourself to ensure you don’t leave your best marathon in a training run,” says RunningwithUs coach Anderson, who has teamed up with Cancer Research UK to give his training advice.
Here are his top tapering tips
» Reach your peak. 3-4 weeks out will see you hit your final key long run. 3 to 3.5 hours with the final 60 minutes at your planned race day pace and intensity would be a great final key run. Beyond this it’s all diminishing returns.
» Cut it back. After your final long run, it’s time to start tapering. Too much, too close to race day will leave you tired but with no additional fitness gain. Three weeks out consider cutting your long run back to a maximum of 2.5 hours, at 2 weeks cut it to 2 hours and at 1 week a relaxed 75 minute run.
» Feel the frequency. So that you don’t feel rusty during your taper, keep the frequency of your training the same. If you normally run 3, 4 or 5 times a week, keep this up, but consider getting some faster innings in to get a bit of ‘zip’ back into the legs. A local 5km park run blast could be perfect for this.
» Get cross. Niggles and sickness can still strike during your taper and the desire to run through this can see many runners undo all their hard work. If you are sick or carrying a niggle take extra rest or consider cross training, aqua jogging, elliptical or static bikes.
» All in the mind. ‘Should I squeeze in another 3-hour run?’ ‘Do I need to make up for that week I missed when I had a cold?’ These are common worries in the final weeks. Look back over your training diary and write down 8-10 positive statements about what you HAVE achieved so far, reinforcing the positives.
» Book an MOT. If you were entering a car race you’d definitely want to make sure everything was running smoothly. Your body is no different. Book in for an MOT with a good local sports physio or consider getting a sports massage in the final 2 weeks. No closer than the Wednesday of race week though as sometimes these can leave you feeling a little sore!
» Clear the diary. The taper is all about doing less not more. Just because you have more time because you’re not training doesn’t mean its time for more gym classes or DIY jobs at home. Be a bit selfish and ask for help with some of the jobs around the house. If you possibly can, take a day extra off work on the Friday before the race and use it to do…nothing!
» Sleep yourself fit. An extra 15-30 minutes a night in these final 2-3 weeks could make MASSIVE difference to your final performance. Banish smart phones and tablets from the bedroom, avoid stimulants such as caffeine or alcohol late at night, eat your main meal a little earlier and ideally 2 hours or more before you sleep.
» Find info on how you can support Cancer Research UK’s London Marathon team to raise £2m to help beat cancer at cancerresearchuk.org/sportschallenges