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The Taper

Posted on April 1st, 2018 by

If you are following our schedule for the London Marathon, you have just started your taper. For those of you doing Brighton or who are racing a marathon next weekend, your taper should be in full swing.

A taper is a period of gradually reduced training just before a big race. The idea behind it is simple. It takes about a month for any training you do to have a positive impact on your race performance. However, training does make you tired and that will have a negative impact on your race performance. So you should reduce your training before a big race in order to get the best possible time. This is true to some extent whatever the distance, but it is particularly important for marathons.

If you’ve been following our London schedule, you should have been doing a lot of very hard training over the last few weeks. The chances are you’ve been feeling a little tired as a result. Our schedule should have pushed you about as far as it is sensible to go without risking too big a chance of illness or injury. It’s time to ease off. You’ve probably heard about elite athletes who aim to peak at the Olympics. Our schedule is designed to get you to peak on race day.

The first week of the taper feels a lot like business as usual, but if you look closely at our schedule you’ll see that there is a small reduction in effort from the last few weeks. In particular the long runs are not so long any more.

In the second week of the taper, you’ll begin to notice the reduction in training. In particular, there’s no track session in the second week. You will be doing a marathon pace fartlek instead (I’ll explain some other time).

In the third week of the taper, you should scarcely run at all.

You might start to panic that you haven’t done enough training and be tempted to put in a little more work than the schedule says. Don’t worry, you have done enough training. Yes, I know you had to miss some training at one point due to injury, and there was that session you missed because you were working late, but this happens to everyone. You’ve done the work, if you try to do more now you’ll be doing more harm than good.

The final week of your taper is critical. You have to do a lot of resting. You may actually hate this. You may start to feel nervous tension building. You mustn’t go on a run just to calm your nerves. We want that nervous energy still in place for race day.

Don’t be tempted by other activities in place of running. So no gym work during the taper. No decorating the house. No gardening. No overtime. No long walks. No sight seeing. No swimming. No acrobatics. No heavy petting*.

So download a Dan Brown/E.L. James/Melville onto your kindle, find yourself a good box set on Netflix, and start relaxing.



* The heavy petting comment is a joke. It is perfectly OK to have moderate to vigorous sexual intercourse during the final week of the taper. However, it should not be attempted during the race except in the portaloos provided.