by Meghan Reynolds
Some people love tapering; some people hate it. I personally love tapering. It usually comes right when I feel that my body just can't do another long run. I relish the shorter, faster runs, the ability to sleep a bit longer, not rushing to the track or out the door to get my run in. Tapering helps me focus on the race and allows my body to get ready for race day. The New York City Marathon is about 1.5 weeks away and we wanted to remind everyone to taper and why we do it.
The reason we taper before competitions is to maximize our potential on race day. This is not a rest or recovery period. Instead, these 2-3 weeks are when you reduce miles while maintaining intensity. If you are tapering for a marathon, plan to run about 30% less from your peak mileage 3 weeks out and about 50% less 2 weeks out from the race. While the miles decrease, your intensity doesn't. We recommend you run several runs at race pace and at tempo during the taper (especially, if you are going for a PR) . Don't slack on these runs or skip them, they are what will get you to the finish line in your goal time.
Use your long runs as race pace practice and wear the clothing you plan to wear during the race. We recommend running 13-15 miles 2 weeks out and 8 miles the weekend before a marathon (for a half marathon, run about 9-11 miles 2 weeks out and 6 miles the weekend before the race). During each of these runs, aim to run 4-8 miles at race pace. During the week (3 and 2 weeks out), run 15-20 minutes at tempo pace (only 1 time per week). These runs get your body use to that pace and will help you mentally as your body fatigues later on in the marathon.
Taper time can be hard for many athletes because we are so used to filling up our time with running and marathon training. This is a good time to refocus on sleep and eating well, or watch that DVD series you've been meaning to start or read a book you've had on your list. Keep yourself occupied and enjoy the extra time. Don't fret about the miles or what other people are doing. Avoid looking up blogs or articles about training or taper time as well. You don't want to freak yourself out! We recommend unplugging a bit the week before your race; go to bed early, shut the TV off, turn the computer off and leave the phone in the other room. Allow your body and mind to rest.
In the end, it's about trusting your training and staying positive. Believe you will do great and you will have a great race.