If you’re feeling exhausted right before your taper, it can leave you with a distinct lack of confidence, but fear not, it’s perfectly normal. Here’s why.
It’s the hardest part
Aside from the long runs being at their peak right before your taper, you’re also dealing with the cumulative fatigue that comes with the functional overreaching or progressive overload needed to get you marathon ready.
Add in the likely early mornings causing a lack of sleep and the fact that long runs may also include longer stretches or more miles at race pace than you’ve been running in previous weeks, meaning you’re not even close to being fully recovered before your next easy run or interval session. Naturally this makes every pace you run feel tougher than you might expect or want it to. This can easily derail your confidence if you don’t consider the circumstances, so keep context in mind.
Remember what you’re working towards
The whole point of your training is to challenge yourself. Finding it tough is a good thing, because as long as you’re running without injury it means you’ve struck the right balance of recovery and hard work. This balance is vital if you’re aiming to run a personal best time in your upcoming race, and helps you enjoy the race more if you’re running for the experience.
Inevitably race day will be physically and mentally tough, but the ability to deal with that comes from the rigours of the months of training you’ve carried out. The fact that race pace feels a lot harder than you want right before your taper will be irrelevant once you’ve had 2-3 weeks of tapering to recover. By race day it’ll be so much easier. I’ve written a blog post on why this is, titled “Stepping up from long runs to marathon day” which will explain more.
Aches, pains and stiffness
We’re runners, so a bit of discomfort, stiffness and the odd ache are par for the course unfortunately. These again should be taken as feedback that you’ve been testing your limits and, provided you deal with them through stretching, foam rolling, massage etc. they’re not something to be concerned about. Get them sorted sooner rather than later, but don’t panic or worry unnecessarily.
What to expect in a 12-week marathon cycle
Weeks 1-4 should feel challenging, but comfortable enough with recovery being fast and sessions being completed on pace almost perfectly.
Weeks 4-8 should be harder. Long runs are creeping up and the long runs are completed with more marathon pace miles and higher rates of exertion. You might not always hit the paces, but you should be close the vast majority of the time.
Weeks 8-9 or 8-10 are the toughest of the lot. Mileage is high, long runs are longer and your legs will feel tired. You might not always hit the paces, but this is where we really grow mentally and physically, so stick with it.
Weeks 9-12 or 10-12 you’ll regain the strength and freshness in your legs that you felt was gone. Runs are easier and feel too easy almost. Stick to your plan and recover well to run your best race.
Hopefully you can see now that the tiredness and heavy legged feeling you’ve been experiencing is a sign that you’ve prepared yourself well for the marathon. Take heart from that feeling and confidence that you’re ready for the day.
Written by Kyle Brooks, Running Coach based in Norwich, Norfolk