The big day is just weeks away. Training has taken months, but the last long run is in the past. However, even though the physical training is over, one of the most difficult parts of marathon training is the taper. The marathon taper is a mix of surviving the emotional roller coaster and staying physically healthy.
Meg Sullivan, CARA’s Training Program Manager, said runners can often feel both lethargic and have extra, built up energy. This happens because of the removal of the long training runs and pressure building up, Sullivan said. To combat those feelings, Sullivan said she tells her runners to focus on their goals.
“Talk about your goal, your mind is so powerful when you’re going into something like a marathon,” Sullivan said. “You’d be amazed how your body will go along with what you say you’re going to do. It’s a huge part of the taper, the most important part.”
Part of that goal training includes staying in touch with training partners. They are more likely to feel similarly and be able to best help get through the taper. Sullivan said that will help keep motivation in the short time before the marathon.
Positive thinking and handling emotions isn’t the only thing needed to survive the taper. It is also important to stay physically active without overdoing it. Sullivan said she tells her runners to continue to go on shorter runs, but with the same intensity. The short, intense runs will keep the runner’s legs prepared for the marathon without taxing them too much. Going without running entirely can shock the body on race day.
It is also important to keep in a routine of physical activity without going overboard. Sullivan said it’s ok to continue a yoga routine but to cut back or entirely eliminate any cross-training or strength training.
Keeping up with a healthy diet is an important but often misunderstood part of the taper, Sullivan said. While most runners know of the importance of carbo loading, there is a tendency to over do it. Instead of ordering extra large amounts of pasta or carbs, Sullivan said to just add in small additions regularly.
“Have an extra small roll with your dinner a couple of weeks before, ” Sullivan said. “Small additions to store your muscles, they are finding more and more that a balanced diet, a little bit of protein, carbs, is the way to go. Don’t over do it it will leave you feeling bloated before your race, you don’t want that.”
Proper tapering can make all the difference on race day. As difficult as it can be to get through it will prove invaluable during the marathon.
“Normally a lot of runners start to feel a little run down, nervous and have more energy than they would like to,” Sullivan said. “Don’t get freaked out by that. Let it happen and realize it’s part of the experience.”