Your taper for a marathon is important, but within this 2-3 week period, the final week of preparation is the most important week. Here we’ll look at what you can do to avoid harming your chances of running the best time possible, as well as optimising performance.
Number of runs
In the final week you’ll likely want to run 3-4 times, with your normal run frequency and mileage dictating which is the most appropriate option for you. I generally recommend the last run being on Thursday to allow around 72 hours between the last run and the marathon. Enough to be rested without feeling sluggish.
Length of runs
Since you’ll want the final week to be significantly lower in mileage than a normal training week, I’d suggest no more than 20 miles in the final training week for very fit athletes, or 12-15 miles for most people. Depending on the number of runs you do, you might look at a split of something like 3 miles, 6 miles and 3 miles.
Intensity of runs
I’d still try to include some miles at marathon pace or even a few seconds per mile faster, but split these up. A typical more intense run in the final week for me looks something like 6 miles with 1 mile warming up, 2 miles at marathon pace, 1 mile easy running, 1 mile at marathon pace or faster and 1 mile cool down.
Aside from this I’ll include two easier runs, of 3-4 miles, and one more 3-4 mile run with 1-2 miles of it run at marathon pace.
Make your final week of strength training very light, focusing on movement, technical drills and ideally perform the last session of the Wednesday.
This isn’t training advice, but tying up every loose end and ensuring you know and have written down every detail you’ll need to know is a great idea. Travel times and locations, packing your bag in advance, knowing your race strategy. All of this will help relieve stress which could otherwise cause stomach issues that could ruin your race.
Think about your sleep the night before. It can be worth taking a pillow from home to your hotel if travelling, as well as having an eye-mask and ear buds in case of curtains that let in too much light or people in the room next door being noisy.
If nothing else, having everything ready will make the experience that much more enjoyable.
Do a proper carb load. I’ve written about the topic a few times so check out those posts, but not planning this properly and executing that plan would be a massive disservice to your training and hard work. If you’re someone who worries about a missed training session, but doesn’t attempt to do a well-thought out carb load, then it’s worth assessing your priorities. Missing training can sometimes be ok and necessary. Missing out on easy race optimisation is never a helpful thing to do.
These tips are all easy to do and if you follow them, you’ll be setting yourself up for success as much as you possibly can.
Written by Kyle Brooks, Running Coach based in Norwich, Norfolk