Time to Taper

Just 3 weeks to go until the 2018 London Marathon. Half of me wants to squeeze in another 20+ miler, half of me wants to make the sofa my new home, sleep 12 hours every night and eat pasta for every meal. But what is the right thing to do? When I ran my first marathon in 2016, I was terrified of resting and relaxing in those last 3 weeks. Surely I will lose some fitness? And all those carbs… won’t I put on weight? No, no and no. If you taper correctly, not only will you maintain the strength and stamina built over the past 6 months, you will optimise performance, giving you the best chance of absolutely smashing that PB on race day. In this post, I go into my three-week countdown.

Running routines are very personal, and everyone’s taper will look slightly different. However, a few general guidelines apply:

  • In week 1 of the 3-week taper, you’re looking to cut your total weekly mileage by about 25% from the previous week. For example, say you ran 40 miles last week, you should be aiming to run around 30 miles this week. You can either do this by significantly reducing your long run and sticking to your normal mid-week runs, or reducing every run slightly. Start paying extra attention to your diet during this time (I’m talking micronutrients as well as macros); the last thing you want to do is get ill this close to the finish line!
  • In week 2, cut your mileage again by around 25%. Any miles you do run, make them slow.
  • In the week before the race, limit mileage as much as possible. If you insist on heading out, limit distance to just a few miles (nothing more than 3-4). These runs are for your head and will not have any positive impact on race-day performance, so make sure they are very, very slow. During this time, ensure you are consuming between 60-70% of your daily calorie intake from carbs.

WEEK 1: 2nd – 8th April

Monday: Shakeout/tempo run. 10 mins easy, 20 mins marathon pace, 10 mins easy.

Tuesday: Light cross-train.

Wednesday: Light cross-train.

Thursday: Intervals.

Friday: Rest.

Saturday: 2hr long run.

Sunday: Rest & yoga.

During week-1, I will be focusing on consuming a wholesome, healthy diet. I try to have 80-90g protein every day, with the remaining calories coming from both carbs and fats (for more info on macro splits, read my post here). This week, I will also make sure I am eating a lot of fruit and veg (especially those containing lots of Vitamin C), to ensure my immune system stays on top form throughout the taper. I always stop drinking alcohol 4 weeks before a marathon; not only does this mean I am completely detoxed for race day, it also means fewer late nights and better quality sleep.


WEEK 2: 9th – 16th April

Monday: 30 mins shakeout run.

Tuesday: Light cross-train.

Wednesday: 30 mins tempo, 15 mins easy.

Thursday: Rest.

Friday: Easy intervals.

Saturday: 1hr long run.

Sunday: Rest & yoga.

This week, my diet will be much the same as week-1, ensuring I continue to eat only wholesome, “clean” foods. I will also start paying more attention to my water intake, ensuring I drink at least 3 litres each day. I will also target an average of 8 hours sleep (or more) each night over the week.


WEEK 3: 17th – 22nd April

Monday: Yoga.

Tuesday: 30 mins of easy intervals.

Wednesday: Rest.

Thursday: 30 mins easy.

Friday: Rest.

Saturday: 20 mins shakeout.

Sunday: RACE DAY!

Nutrition is everything this week. For more info regarding carb loading, head to one of my older posts here. It may seem daunting to still be consuming your usual calorie intake when you are barely exercising but, trust me, your body needs it. Some advice: don’t get the scales out mid-week. It’s just water weight and it will go down after race-day, promise. For me, week-3 will be 6 days of rest and relaxation – I am about to run 26.2 miles, after all. I will aim to get as much sleep as physically possible during the week (pre-race nerves can make saturday night uncomfortable), and will be making sure I do the absolute bare minimum when it comes to walking/lifting/housework – you have the best excuse.

And that’s it! After months and months of blood sweat and tears, we’ve made it to race day; something that is an achievement on it’s own. If you’re a seasoned marathoner, let’s smash those PBs! If it’s you’re first time running, prepare yourself for one of the best days of your entire life.


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