For the marathon, I typically begin cutting athletes' volume and the length of their long runs three weeks before the race (or up to a week later if they haven't been running high volume). I reduce peak mileage by 30 percent for the first week, 50 percent for the second week, and 65 percent for the week of the marathon (not counting the marathon itself).
I keep the intensity high during the first week, including one interval workout at 3K race pace and one moderately-long run (20 to 24 kilometres) with slightly less than half at lactate-threshold pace (about 20 to 30 seconds per mile faster than marathon race pace for trained runners). I begin to decrease the intensity slightly during the second week, including two short- to medium-distance runs (8 to 16 kilometres) at marathon race pace.
The week of the race, I include one interval workout early in the week at either lactate threshold pace or slightly faster, cutting back on the pre-taper number of reps. The final week also includes a daily reduction in volume over the last few days that mirrors the pattern of the weekly reduction (see pre-marathon taper example below). Exactly what you do during your taper will depend on what you did before the taper.
If you want to give your performance a boost, try these tapering strategies before your next race. And if you taper smart enough, maybe you won't have to shave your body hair.
Sample Pre-Marathon Taper
Exact number of weekly miles depends on the pre-taper training volume. This example is based on a pre-taper peak weekly volume of 80 miles.
|Week 1||7 miles||9 miles||warm-up; 6 x 1,000m @3K race pace with 3-minute recovery; cooldown||8 miles||9 miles||rest||8 miles + 4 miles @ LT pace + 2 miles faster than LT pace||54 miles|
|Week 2||4 miles||6 miles|| 8 miles |
@ goal marathon pace
|5 miles||7 miles||rest||5 miles + 5 miles @ goal marathon pace||40 miles|
|Week 3||5 miles||warm-up; 4 x 1,200m @ 10 seconds per mile faster than LT pace with 45-second rest; cooldown||7 miles||5 miles||4 miles||rest||marathon|| 28 miles |
(54.2 miles total)
LT = lactate threshold; MP = marathon pace
More: How to Plan Your TaperSign up for your next race.