Surviving the dreaded taper

Hello, hello!

So, I’m smack in the middle of my marathon taper and, up until last night, I thought I was handling it pretty well.

I’ve been very proactive about making a conscious effort to ease off appropriately, especially with weight amounts at CrossFit, because I wore myself out so much that I had to take some time off.

Generally, a runner doesn’t take time off 4 weeks before a marathon. :/

I went to CrossFit on Monday and had a really good workout.


I didn’t force the weights during the strength portion – mostly concentrated on form, which was apparently sucky because coach was nitpicking me to death about my knees tracking in on the squats – and I modified to 55# push-presses for the WOD.

I kept it steady and I  made it through 13 1/2 rounds.

Then, Tuesday was so beautiful that I had to get outside for a run. I only knocked out about 4 1/2 miles – my normal entrance to the park where I run was blocked so I had to improvise but I didn’t want to overdo it – and it was exactly what I needed.

My plans for the rest of the week looked like this: CrossFit on Wednesday (yesterday), running today, rest Friday, run Saturday.

But, I know me and I was tired yesterday so I decided to rest. I’ll go to CrossFit tonight, rest Friday, and then run on Saturday morning (mileage tbd).

Next week will probably look like this: CrossFit Monday, run Tuesday, CrossFit Wednesday, rest Thursday & Friday, travel Saturday, marathon on Sunday.

Anyway, last night. I had MAJOR ants in my pants. I couldn’t sit still! I totally felt like I should be working out.

It’s not like I’m a marathon newbie and have never tapered before. Totally been there done that but last night, it was like tapering was a whole new experience for me. I don’t even understand it!

I’m just going to take it as a sign that I’m better prepared than I’m giving myself credit for. Yeah. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


So, let’s talk about the taper.

It’s difficult for most runners, as the big day nears, to dial back on their training. I mean, seriously, it’s like taking candy from a baby!

You’ve been logging tons upon tons of miles, you’ve been waking up before the butt-crack of dawn to get started on long runs, you’ve missed out on date nights with your significant other or social events with friends because you’re “in training” and now you’re supposed to run LESS?!?!


Yep. Less running makes for a cranky runner.

But, the taper is important and even necessary.

Here’s why:

1. all the glycogen, hormones, etc that you’ve depleted from your muscles during training return as you ease off

2. you’re giving your body time to heal any muscle damage that has occurred

3. you’re giving your body the break it needs so you don’t get sick

4. your body will be raring and ready to go on race day rather than be tired and unresponsive.

So, the general rule of thumb is to decrease your mileage by 20% each week starting 3 weeks out.

That final week before the marathon will feel like it takes an ETERNITY because you suddenly have all this time on your hands but, fear not! You can reacquaint yourself with your family! Remember them? The ones that love you and have supported you during your training? The ones that picked you up from the floor because you were too stiff to get back up from stretching after a long run? Yeah, those people. 🙂

They’ll be happy to see you again. Even if you are cranky. (well, probably. if you’re super cranky, they may push you out the 2nd floor window.)

You also need to fuel up a little more than you normally would.

Yes, I know your brain just exploded.

Run less and eat MORE?!

mind blown

Yep. It’s all part about repairing and refueling those muscles to make sure you’re ready for race day. 26.2 miles isn’t a short, easy run, people. Your muscles are going to need fuel to help you cover them all.

I highly recommend avoiding the scale this week, too. Trust me. No sense in getting all stressed out and then forgetting that you’re going to go RUN A MARATHON and burn it all off anyway. 🙂

Lastly, make sure you hydrate well and DON’T TRY ANYTHING NEW!

No new sports drinks, no new foods, no new workouts because you’re dying of boredom from not running and you just have to do something.

Boring is the new cool. An upset tummy, food poisoning, or an injury just prior to a marathon is NOT cool.

Take this time to kick back on the couch and catch up on your favorite show(s), read a book, do crossword puzzles, color with your kids,  meditate, sleep or whatever.

I promise you will not literally bounce off the walls. It’ll be okay.

Yes, the taper is difficult. And kinda annoying. And sorta stressful.

But, it’s survivable. And you’ll be happy you did it. I promise. 🙂

Talk to me: What’s your favorite non-workout/running activity to do during the taper? How do you manage the stress of feeling like you should be working out but knowing rest is the right thing? Any tips or tricks you’d like to share?

– jennifer

3 thoughts on “Surviving the dreaded taper

  1. Taper? We are supposed to taper? I did one last big workout a week before the Half Ironman and then stopped cold turkey. I know my body likes the downtime and I will do my best in the even if my body is rested so it is not that much work to convince myself to take it easy for a week. My eating habits stayed the same as when I was working out, no increase or decrease. Carbo-loading began 24 hrs before the event with a large pancake breakfast with lots of maple syrup (no butter) and a couple of glasses of apple juice. Lunch was a huge baked potato with guacamole and salsa and lots of water. Dinner was very light, a 10oz Naked fruit drink. I felt great for my event!

    • So, you sorta tapered. 😉 You definitely have to do what works for you. The trial and error comes in the figuring that part out. Now, let’s talk about that lunch – YUM!

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