Cutting Back

“Racing is the fun part; it’s the reward of all the hard work.” – Kara Goucher

It’s been a few years since I’ve written my taper plan in the blog, so when a reader left a comment on the blog for me to explain the process, it seemed like a good idea.

Really, it’s easier for me to fish out old posts then expect readers to find them. Here’s a 2009 post about tapering, and another more detailed post from early 2010.

Here’s an overly simplified version of my training plan in the weeks leading up to the marathon:

  • Highest mileage weeks, with longest runs, fall during 3 and 5 weeks out from race day.
  • The 4th week prior to the race will be a cut-back week, meaning I’ll do about 10 percent fewer miles from week 5. For instance, if my highest mileage weeks top out at 50 miles, than the “cut-back” week will be 45 miles.
  • Technically, my mileage does begin to fall off during the final weeks, but not dramatically. The 3rd week will still be 75 percent of the highest week, but intensity and frequency remains the same. And I will absolutely have a long run. The mileage total drops by shaving a few miles off of weekday runs.
  • The pattern continues in the 2nd week prior to race day. Frequency and intensity stay the same. Early in the week, individual workout distances remain constant. But, at the start of the 10-day taper, I will drastically cut miles. My “long run” day, in my case its usually Saturdays, will have me running 8 to 12 miles. If I feel like I need rest, I’ll keep it to the shorter side.
  • During race week, I continue to cut miles, but keep intensity. I’ll take an extra day off, and aim to complete about 25 percent of my high mileage total.
Now also seems like a good time to address the day before the race, particularly the carbo-loading strategy I’ve used during at least 12 marathons. This carbo-loading plan, based on research from the University of Western Australia, works for me.For the record, I also don’t use a carbo-loading plan for half marathons, unless one considers pizza and beer the night before as a strategy. Further, I don’t carbo-load prior to long training runs or take gels during them. In short, the “train low, race high” philosophy to carbohydrate fueling has been successful for me.

In short: my goal each training cycle is to run through all conditions because the weather on marathon day is unpredictable, run on the toughest terrain possible since it will build strength and confidence, and restrict glucose levels during training for elevated benefits during the race.

2 Responses

  1. Chad

    Thanks for going into a bit more detail regarding your tapering strategy. I’m running the Madison Marathon November 9th and the training program I’m using has a three week taper. I followed the same program for May’s Fargo Marathon, and while I felt the run went pretty good, I thought it could have been a bit better. Thus, Sunday (two weeks out from race day) I plan on bucking the program and going moderately long with a fast finish in the hopes that it fine-tunes my long run fitness. Thanks again for posting your experiences.

    1. Sounds like you’ve got a great plan. A fast finish medium run is a great way to tweak your training to peak on marathon morning. I’d love to hear how it goes for you. Best of luck!

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