10 Marathon Taper Tips You Can't Forget

Focus on Total Hours Slept

Much like the section on Resting Heart Rate, I want you to proactively rest. Instead of heart beats, I want you to count total hours slept each night. The goal here is to identify how many hours of sleep works best for you. You can "judge" the effect of your sleep by assessing your mood early in the morning.

In an ideal world, you will be getting close to eight hours of sleep a night. I realize that this could potentially be statistically impossible given your work, family and social commitments. But you still need to try. Sleep is both a physical and mental restorative process; don't sell yourself short by trying to game the system or skimp on your hours.

More: Why You Should Schedule Sleep

Create a Race Plan

Some athletes are born to race; they handle the ups and downs of race day with a grace reserved for the athletically gifted. The rest of us? Well, we are left to muddle through 26.2 miles while juggling aid stations, splits, changing temperatures and the irrational desire to remember exactly where our friends/family will be at mile 15 so we can give them hugs or a high-five.

Make your race more manageable by taking 30 minutes to actually write down what you plan on doing.

What are your target paces at the start and end? How will you fuel and hydrate? What is your target split for halfway? For Mile 18? At what point will you transition from running to racing to the finish? Are you following a pacer or doing your own thing?

The act of writing this down effectively gives you a script to rehearse (see below) and will make race day an exercise in doing what we know versus making something up. It sounds trivial, but it's very important. After all that time spent running, you should be able to find 30 minutes to get this right!

More: The Ultimate Marathon Race Plan

Set Aside Time to Preview the Course

I am amazed at the number of runners who have no idea what the race course looks like other than the hand-drawn cartoon map provided by the race director. Whether you are serious about competing or completing the race, knowing the terrain and layout of the course is a significant strategic advantage.

Set aside time to one or two days before the race when you can drive the course as best as possible (this might not be ideal for some urban marathons). If at all possible, make sure that you are the one driving so you can feel the nuances of the road. Be sure to note key landmarks that coincide with your race plan; this will help reinforce the important actions you have planned to take.

If you can't make it out on the entire course for a preview, you might be able to get in a short run. Try to find an important part of the course so you can maximize your time. We don't need you to run at goal race pace here (you are tapering, after all!) but you can learn more about how the course will flow and how your body will respond.

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