Week #13 – Taper!
I believe a true taper is a major contributor to marathon success. What is a taper? It is simply a gradual reduction in training volume. This allows the body to recover from the weeks upon weeks of training so that you are rested and ready to go come race day. Yet, it is much easier said than done. You have been training so hard for so long and can become convinced that you will lose fitness if you pull back. Actually, just the opposite is true, but that is a very hard concept for most runners to accept, especially when they are just weeks from their race. It is also very hard to swallow when you see friends and acquaintances continue to put in major miles in the final weeks before race day. Let them. You are training for an endurance race, not the 100 yard dash. You need to let your body absorb all the hard work that you have been doing. There is a great saying when it comes to overtraining for endurance races: "It is better to be 10% undertrained than 1% over trained."
One of my primary responsibilities as a coach is to ensure that my clients taper correctly. When a client calls me during a taper and says that she feels absolutely terrible - she feels fat, sluggish, irritable and anxious - I reply, "Great!" That tells me that she is tapering perfectly. When you go from running, riding and swimming significant miles to pulling back drastically, as I have told you to do in the final weeks, your body and your mind will rebel. You will want that endurance fix, yet you can't have it. You will be burning fewer calories, which can make you feel like you've gained 20 pounds. You will feel slower during the workouts you do have left, and this will make you worry even more. Fear not, and have faith: You are tapering perfectly. You should spring out of bed on race morning and feel like a dog that has been cooped up inside for a week and is raring to go. When in doubt during the final week, leave it out. No one ever ruined a marathon by tapering too hard!