Marathon runners are no strangers to the physical and mental challenges that come with preparing for race day. 

Months of intense training, strict diets, and a grueling exercise routine can take a toll on the body and mind. 

However, even after putting in all the hard work, many runners still struggle with the fear of not being fully prepared for the big day. That’s where marathon tapering comes in. 

In this article, we’ll explore the best practices for marathon tapering, so you can feel confident and prepared for the race of a lifetime.

What is Marathon Tapering?

Marathon tapering is the process of gradually reducing training volume and intensity in the weeks leading up to a marathon to allow the body to rest and recover, ultimately improving performance on race day. 

It’s a way to help your body and mind rest and recover before a big race like a marathon. 

Think of it like taking a break after playing a really big game of tag with your friends. Your body needs some time to rest and get ready for the next big game.

Benefits of tapering

Marathon tapering has been shown to improve performance when done properly. Here are some benefits of tapering before a half or full marathon.

How long should you taper? 

In 2021, researchers investigated the effect of tapering on marathon performance, specifically looking at the duration and strictness of the taper. 

The results showed that a strict taper was better than a relaxed taper for a marathon performance, and longer tapers (up to 3 weeks) were better than shorter ones. 

The best taper duration was found to be 3 weeks, with a saving of 5 minutes and 32.4 seconds or 2.6% compared to a minimal taper.

Additionally, the study found that female runners experienced greater benefits from tapering than male runners, for the same taper duration (up to 3 weeks).

Overall, the study suggests that a 3-week strict taper before a marathon is the most effective approach for improving performance, particularly for female runners.

So, when preparing for a marathon or creating a marathon training plan, you should consider creating at least a 3-week tapering plan to help you succeed on race day.

How to Create a Tapering Plan

Marathon tapering

To create a tapering plan, do the following:

1. Gradually decrease training volume

Reduce your training volume gradually over the course of the tapering period. Aim to reduce your total weekly mileage by 20-30% each week.

2. Maintain intensity

While you’re decreasing your training volume, it’s important to maintain the intensity of your workouts. This will help you maintain your fitness level and stay sharp for race day.

3. Rest and recover 

Incorporate plenty of rest and recovery into your tapering schedule. This may include taking rest days or easy runs, getting plenty of sleep, and focusing on nutrition and hydration.

4. Focus on quality, not quantity

During the tapering period, focus on quality workouts rather than quantity. This may include speed work, hill repeats, or tempo runs, which will help maintain your fitness level while still allowing for recovery.

How To Implementing Your Tapering Plan 

Implementing a marathon tapering plan requires careful planning and dedication to your training schedule. Here’s how you can effectively implement a marathon tapering plan:

  1. Review your training plan: Take a look at your training plan and identify the tapering period. This period should begin 2-3 weeks before the marathon.
  1. Set goals: Identify your goals for the race, such as finishing time or pacing strategy. Use these goals to guide your tapering plan and ensure that you’re prepared for race day.
  1. Reduce volume: Gradually reduce the volume of your training over the course of the tapering period. Aim to reduce your total weekly mileage by 20-30% each week.
  1. Maintain intensity: While you’re reducing your training volume, maintain the intensity of your workouts. This will help you maintain your fitness level and stay sharp for race day.
  1. Focus on rest and recovery: Incorporate plenty of rest and recovery into your tapering plan. This may include taking rest days or easy runs, getting plenty of sleep, and focusing on nutrition and hydration.
  1. Stay active: While you’re tapering, it’s important to stay active. This may include cross-training, such as swimming or cycling, or low-impact exercises like yoga or stretching.
  1. Stay positive: Use the tapering period to stay positive and focused on your goals. Visualize yourself crossing the finish line and remind yourself of all the hard work you’ve put in to get to this point.

Remember, marathon tapering is not about slacking off, it’s about getting your body and mind in top shape for race day. By carefully planning and implementing a tapering plan, you’ll be able to perform at your best and achieve your goals. So, embrace the tapering period as a time to rest, recover, and prepare for the ultimate challenge – crossing that finish line with a huge smile on your face!

What to expect during the tapering period

During the tapering period, it’s normal to experience a range of physical and emotional changes as your body adjusts to the reduced training load. Here’s what you can expect during the tapering period:

1. Physical changes

As you reduce your training volume, you may experience physical changes such as decreased muscle soreness, increased energy levels, and improved sleep quality. 

Your body will also begin to repair any damage from previous workouts, helping you feel stronger and more prepared for race day.

2. Emotional changes

The tapering period can be an emotional rollercoaster, with feelings of excitement, anxiety, and uncertainty. 

You may feel restless or antsy as you reduce your training load, or worry that you’re not doing enough to prepare for the race. 

It’s important to stay positive and focused on your goals and remember that tapering is an important part of the training process.

3. Mental changes 

During the tapering period, you may also experience changes in your mental state. Some runners report feeling more focused and confident, while others may struggle with feelings of doubt or nervousness. It’s important to practice positive self-talk and visualization techniques to help stay motivated and focused on your goals.

4. Race readiness

By the end of the tapering period, you should feel physically and mentally prepared for race day. Your body will be well-rested and ready to perform, and you’ll have the mental fortitude and focus to tackle any challenges that come your way.

Common mistakes to avoid when creating a marathon tapering plan

While tapering is an important part of marathon training, there are some common marathon tapering mistakes runners make when creating and implementing a tapering plan. Here are some mistakes to avoid:

1. Not starting early enough

One of the biggest mistakes runners make when learning how to taper for a marathon is not starting the tapering period early enough. Aim to begin your tapering period 2-3 weeks before race day to allow enough time for your body to recover and prepare.

2. Reducing intensity too much

While it’s important to reduce your training volume during the tapering period, be careful not to reduce your intensity too much. Maintaining some intensity in your workouts will help you maintain your fitness level and stay sharp for race day.

3. Neglecting recovery

Recovery is an essential part of the tapering period, so make sure you’re incorporating plenty of rest, stretching, and foam rolling into your routine. Neglecting recovery can lead to injury or fatigue on race day.

4. Making major changes to your diet

While it’s important to eat a healthy and balanced diet during the tapering period, avoid making major changes to your diet. Stick with foods that your body is used to and avoid trying new foods or supplements that could upset your stomach or cause other issues.

5. Overthinking and stressing

It’s natural to feel anxious or nervous during the tapering period but try not to overthink or stress about your training or race day. Trust in your training and your body, and stay focused on your goals.

Nutrition and Recovery During Tapering

Marathon tapering- nutrition

Proper nutrition and rest are critical components of the tapering period leading up to a marathon. The tapering period is a time for your body to recover from the physical stress of training, while also preparing for the demands of race day.

During the tapering period, it’s important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet to support your body’s recovery and preparation. 

This means eating nutrient-dense foods that provide your body with the fuel and nutrients it needs to perform at its best. 

Lean protein sources like chicken, fish, and beans can help repair and build muscle tissue, while complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can provide the energy your body needs for both training and recovery. 

Healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and avocado can also provide important nutrients and support overall health.

In addition to proper nutrition, hydration is also critical during the tapering period. Dehydration can negatively impact your training and race day performance, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and electrolyte-rich fluids like sports drinks. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate you and negatively impact your sleep quality.

Rest and recovery are essential components of the tapering period. This includes both physical and mental rest, as well as adequate sleep. It’s important to listen to your body and avoid overtraining or pushing yourself too hard during this period. Adequate rest and recovery can help prevent injuries and allow your body to heal from any existing injuries.

The tapering period is not a time to try and lose weight or make drastic changes to your diet. Instead, focus on eating a healthy and balanced diet, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of rest and recovery to support your body’s preparation for race day.

Final Thoughts

Marathon tapering is an essential component of any successful marathon training program. It allows your body to rest and recover while also maintaining your fitness level leading up to the big race. 

By reducing your training volume and intensity in the weeks leading up to the marathon, you’ll arrive at the starting line feeling fresh, strong, and ready to conquer the distance.

If you’re gearing up for the OC Marathon Festival, make sure to prioritize your taper. Remember to reduce your mileage, take adequate rest days, and fuel your body with healthy, nutrient-dense foods. 

With proper tapering, you can optimize your performance and achieve your marathon goals.

Don’t miss out on this incredible event. Sign up for the OC Marathon Festival today and put your tapering skills to the test.