7 miles, 8 miles, 5 miles, 12 miles
I’m looking at my training schedule for this week and I’m noticing how much less mileage I’ll be running. Next week—the final week before the marathon, the mileage goes down even more.
This is called tapering, which is cutting back on your training so your body can rebuild to peak strength.
For awhile now, I knew the tapering period was coming. I guess I just didn’t realize how fast it would actually get here. I’ve been warned about it from my running friends who have been through it. I’ve heard this period will make me anxious and antsy since I’ve become used to very long runs and high mileage weeks for so many months already.
Yet, from everyone I’ve spoken to and from everything I’ve read on this topic, tapering is an essential part of marathon training.
According to an article by Olympic marathoner and exercise physiologist Pete Pfitzinger, tapering is the one time during our marathon training when working harder is counterproductive to performance. “Despite the benefits, tapering is the most overlooked phase of marathon preparation. Tapering allows your muscles to repair the micro-damage of intervals, your energy systems to store up glycogen, your body to overcome the chronic dehydration of hard training, and that last bit of tendonitis in your knee or ankle or hip to finally go away.
To taper effectively for a marathon takes about 3 weeks, but our self-confidence is fragile. Our egos require the positive reinforcement of a hard workout every few days. If we take a few days, let alone 3 weeks easy, we go through withdrawal. Worse yet, we will turn to mush, and all those weeks and months of hard work will be wasted!
Despair not. With a well-planned taper, you can cut back the volume of your running and still work hard enough to stay in peak condition and get your training fix.”
I initially planned to make up for my reduced mileage during this period by increasing the intensity of my cross training at the gym. However, I’ve learned that by doing this I could put myself at risk of injury, which is the last thing I want to do at this time.
So, I will consider tapering as yet another challenge in my marathon training—only this time, a mental one.
My busy writing career and four children who have begun their spring sports season—running, baseball, and soccer—should provide me with enough distraction to get myself through this stage.
Or will it?