A very important part of any marathon training program is the tapering leading up to the big event. A runner spends 12 weeks or more beating up their legs with gradually increasing mileage, speed workouts, hill workouts and tempo runs until two or three weeks before the marathon. Just when you think you cannot push yourself anymore at this intensity, it is time to taper.
What does that mean? It means daily mileage decreases to a mere 4-6 mile run with long runs scaling down to between 8 and 12 miles. Sometimes, this is welcome and runners abide by the taper. We all understand that our bodies need time to heal during this period of renewal, so that we will be at peak performance on race day.
Alas, after a few days of the taper, many runners start to crave the intensity and the distance. Some of us give in, but almost always to regret it later. The taper is important for rebuilding our muscles and connective tissue, as well as for mental preparedness.
So, over the next two weeks, I will embrace the taper with healthy eating and enjoyable, short runs. I will also find a way to steal some extra sleep and probably take some extra supplements to help my body heal. But, mostly, I will reflect upon my training to reinforce my confidence when I approach the starting line.
As Steve Prefontaine’s coach Bill Bowerman said in response to his runners inquiring why they weren’t doing a hard workout the day before a race…”The hay is in the barn.”