Racing well is equal parts mental and physical, and your taper should be as well. Yet most of the dialogue surrounding the taper period reflects an undue bias towards exercise, specifically the reduction of exercise in preparation for race day.
But resting alone doesn't guarantee you will have your "A" game on race day. Here are a few more points to consider as you head into the final few weeks of your marathon training. Some are simple; some are a bit more complex. My goal here is to give you insights as to how you can improve your taper—and by extension, your race—by broadening the taper outside "what not to do today."
Track Your Resting Heart Rate
Since your top priority is to arrive ready to give it 100 percent on race day, a large part of your taper revolves around recovery. But simply "not running" doesn't give you any insight as to how your body is handling the taper and pre-race recovery. Get proactive with your taper and note your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) every morning.
To capture your RHR, simply take your pulse upon waking each morning before you get out of bed. If you don't have a device to help you, you can place two fingers on your carotid artery (side of your neck) and count the number of beats that occur across a 15-second window; multiply by 4 and you have your RHR.
Ideally you will see your RHR drop as your body sheds the fatigue of the final big week of training. It will then stabilize to a "normal" state; this number is your new norm. Should you awake to find it higher than normal, make sure you haven't overcooked a training session, confirm your sleep is good and do your best to reduce any external stresses such as work.
Finalize and Organize Your Travel Plans
We all respect the 26.2 miles of race day, but truly the logistics around having a great race are also very daunting. You have to travel, register, check-in, do a workout, eat, etc. You might want to do some food shopping, or get a cup of coffee. Yet most of us will be brand new in town, making the simple tasks above into more of an adventure than a foregone conclusion.
Do yourself a huge favor and print out all your travel information; perhaps you can put it on your smartphone as well, or at least your calendar.
Take a moment to contact your lodging to confirm your reservation. Map out the route in advance, so you have time to review and avoid getting lost.
If you are taking a cab from one place to another (airport to hotel), make sure you have the addresses you need, etc.