Marathon Mind

...I haven't lost it. It just never showed up.

Lately, I've noticed that my head just isn't in this marathon training. It's not that I'm missing my workouts or not pushing myself, but mentally, I don't feel like I'll be running a marathon next weekend.

It probably has to do with that little 50K which was my main focus for the entire summer and now that it's over, I'm just about to run another MAJOR race. This kind of running schedule is for crazy people. When did I become one of them?!

While I know my body is ready for Victoria, my head just isn't there. I don't have the taper madness because frankly, I've forgotten what tapering means. I suppose I better start doing that next week.

So seriously, I wanted to get back to the meaning of tapering. I just pulled out my old "Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide" by Hal Higdon to get some more specific answers. Sure in my head I know it means to ease back on training, but what specifically?

I even pulled out my very first training plan that I found on Runner's World by Benji Durden that was only based on time. For example, all my long runs were done much slower and the plan simply told me to run for 2.5 hrs one week for my long run. It's baffling to me that this still is the plan that holds my PR marathon time.

Higdon says there are five areas where runners need to change our habits during the taper.

1. Cut total mileage. As a general rule, cut by at least 50%.
2. Cut frequency. Give your body a day off rather than doing an easy run.
3.  Cut distance, not intensity. Research shows you will benefit from small amounts of at or near race pace running rather than only slow and easy miles.
4.  Cut the lifting.  No heavy lifting at least 3 to 6 weeks before a marathon. If you are doing strength exercises, make sure you are doing fewer reps and lighter weights. Leave the gym feeling energetic, not exhausted.
5. Cut back on calories. Watch what you eat in the realm of empty calories - as you're running less, you're also burning fewer calories.

It's also recommended to adding some extra carbohydrates the last 3-7 days of your taper so those energy stores are chalk full on marathon morning.

"In the final week, eliminate hard training. If you run anything at or near race pace, don't run far." I'll be lucky and happy to be traveling during the few days leading up the race because it will force me not to run and give my mind something else to focus on.

For races I don't have to travel far for, I've focused on trying to do more relaxing things like hanging out with friends, reading a magazine or book, watching a movie, etc. to fill my non running taper time.

And finally, in that last 24 hours, don't spend too much time on your feet. And pay attention to what you're eating and drinking!

So there you have it, an overview of the taper. Do you follow a specific taper regimen? Do you prefer a two or three week taper?


I'm only doing a one week taper for the half but I'm not training SUPER hard this week and adding in lots of yoga classes. I think a 2-week taper is perfect for the marathon distance. Last year doing a 3-week one made me feel a little crazy and unprepared.

That is really interesting that the time-based program you followed holds your best marathon time. I wonder why?

I say approach Victoria like you approached that race you ran but didn't run in the spring. Just be easygoing about it and look at it as a fun, long run. Then I think you'll surprise yourself :-)
J said…
For my half marathon this past spring and my 15k at the beginning of September I did a three week taper of sorts with the final week being the easiest. From my final peak week 4 weeks out, I cut mileage 10% each week and did not cut intensity at all. I still did tempos and race paced runs twice a week and slowly cut back my long runs. I think having the last week be the easiest makes the taper better. I don't like long tapers. I like to continue working hard until the week before and then enjoy the rest.
This week has been a taper week for me since I have been sick and traveling... I only fit 1 run in on the road because I had to be at the a/p so early on Wed and today and now tonight I feel so dizzy and terrible, I don't think it would be a good idea to run. So another rest day it is, I guess. I will do one last long run on Saturday. I don't know if this is the race where i will run a sub-2 hour 1/2. my body is revolting against my ridiculously schedule (understandably so) so I might have to adjust my expectations for Victoria.
I try to always skip the gym and lifting the week of a marathon; if I forget I'm liable to be sore in weird places!
Every training cycle I find myself revisiting those reasons for "the taper" - it's hard to cut back so much, but when totally worth the effort to do it the right way. I do a two-week taper, and by that point I'm ready to really take it easy :)
Raquelita said…
I prefer a two week taper, but I think that a three-week taper is fine physically (maybe even better). It just seems a bit too long mentally/psychologically.
Lisa - I hope you get some rest this weekend! You've been traveling a lot. I don't blame you for feeling wiped.

Raquelita - Yes, I totally agree. I have tried the three week taper and it just makes me crazy. Not worth the extra rest in my opinion.

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