Most runners would agree that prior to a race it is very important to taper. However, there doesn’t seem to be a golden rule about the length of time you need to taper and the mileage. When I trained for my half, I gradually cut back my miles three weeks leading up to the race. For me, the tapering process was more about letting my knees and joints rests so they would be fresh for race day. I’m kind of using that same philosophy for my marathon. I read on Sports Fitness Advisor that runners should “aim to reach a peak (in terms of distance) 4 weeks prior to the race itself. Avoid runs longer than 10 miles during this last month - it can take that amount of time for ligaments, tendons and connective tissue, etc. to fully recover.” According to them, I am right on schedule, however in I am stressing about getting one last long run in to make sure I am “fully” prepared for my race.
If you aren’t familiar with tapering, here are a few key points.
1. Decrease mileage – I’ve heard runners say that they decrease their weekly mileage by 40 to 50 percent two weeks before a race. I think that this is a pretty good rule of thumb. My marathon-training plan has me decreasing my mileage three weeks before the race. Right now I am running six miles three times a week and I have a long run on Saturday. I am going to cut back to 4 miles three times a week, and the week of the race, I will do one four mile run and one two mile run.
2. Long Runs – It is also pretty standard for runners to cut the length of their long runs 2-3 weeks before the race. Again, I think this depends on the runner’s training plan. My plan directed me to run 20 miles three times. And it has me tapering three weeks before the race. However, other plans that I have seen direct the runner to run twenty or eighteen miles once, and that run is usually three weeks before the race, which leaves two weeks for tapering.
3. Intensity – Although I will start cutting back my miles, I still want to maintain my intensity up until the week of the race. Right now my short runs are usually at a 9-minute pace, while my long runs are a 10 to 11 or 12 minute pace. I am going to try and keep up the intensity, especially since I am running shorter distances.
Another thing I am thinking about is weight gain. I have read a lot of articles about runners gaining weight when they taper. This is usually attributed to the fact that they are still eating the same amount of food, but running less. Honestly, weight gain is the last thing I want to deal with, so the plan is to clean up my diet a bit these next few weeks. Ladies, what are you thoughts and advice on tapering? How many weeks before your race do you start tapering and much and often do you decrease your miles? For those of you who have done numerous race, what tapering techniques have you found work best?