After achieving a PB in the Paris Marathon, Fleur Runs explains her approach towards the tapering period before marathons.
What is tapering? Usually a two-week period before a marathon where you reduce your training schedule, start to experience phantom pains and become paranoid that having made it this far you are going to trip over and cause yourself injury. Also fondly referred to as Maranoia!
Taper allows for your body to rest and prepare for the big day but it can be a real mental challenge. Having done a long run every weekend since the beginning of the year it should have been a lovely feeling to have a lie in. Unfortunately my mind went into overdrive, had I done enough? Perhaps I should do one more long run, practising my hydration and fuelling strategy one more time.
The less time you are engaged in physically running, the more your brain has time to over analyse every aspect of the training cycle. Perhaps I should have done more strength training and gone to hot yoga once a week, but it’s too late at this point to change anything so I try not to dwell on this, instead I make a mental note to include it next time (you will cross that finish line and get the marathon bug, I promise!)
To help try and counteract the overthinking I would suggest planning a distraction. By coincidence I had planned a weekend in the Lake District walking Alpacas. I made sure I kept active with lots of walking and one or two short runs of 3-5 miles. At this point in your training cycle this might feel like nothing, I know I was surrounded by miles of beautiful scenery and could have gone for at least five miles more but it’s about being mindful of what is to come and not over doing it.
I also try and not do anything new in terms of physical exertion, new shoes or food I haven’t tried before, to minimise the risk of injury/illness. All whilst carrying a 1litre bottle of water with me to remain as hydrated as possible.
During taper, I try and get as much sleep as possible. I know I won’t sleep well the night before the big day so I try and have some hours banked from the week before. I read somewhere that it’s not the night before that counts but the two nights prior that really count.
Tapering is a mental game. Use the final weekend to have everything ready. Pack a bag with everything you need for race day so there is no last minute scrambling. Assess the weather, to make sure you have suncream and sun glasses on hand if necessary. Make sure you have your race day breakfast in the house. I have never done this myself but if you want to be extra sure to nail the morning of the marathon, do a trial run, from setting your alarm, putting on your kit and planning/travelling your route to the start line (or if you’re more like me, visualising all of this from the comfort of your bed with your morning coffee).
Enjoy picking your bib up at the Expo, but word of warning, it can be a little overwhelming. There are lots of enticing retailers there but do not be tempted to wear any of the new kit, or try the gels etc you will inevitably buy. You haven’t tested them out on a long run!
Most marathons are on a Sunday, so on the Friday or Saturday, it’s always a good idea to give those legs a shake out. 3 miles should do it followed by a stretching session and some time with your best friend, the foam roller.
Good luck to everyone running a marathon this Spring, particularly the spectacular London Marathon, if you spot me on the course give me a wave!!! You can follow me documenting the countdown and on race day itself on Instagram @fleur_runs