4 Things to Do When you Taper for a Marathon

After weeks of training, I find myself staring down the barrel of “race week” which also means “taper week.” Now, most of the time, when I taper, I am usually crabby, anxious, and can only think about running. But after sharing my struggles last week, I actually find myself looking forward to taper week.

I originally had hoped to break 4 hours with this marathon. And when I started, I actually think that goal was very doable. But after a rather terrible April, with a lot of sickness, my new goal is just to get to the starting line healthy and give my best. Quite frankly, I wondered if I should even attempt this race after sharing with you how I’m burning out. I went back and forth for a while and finally decided I would hate myself if I didn’t at least give it my best after spending all winter training for this race.

All past goals are out the window, and I just hope I have a fun and healthy race. In the end, that’s all we can ask for, right? The marathon is so unpredictable that in the end, if we can get to the start line healthy, focus on having fun, and relax about our goals it will be a successful race!

So as I prepared to taper this week, I thought I’d shared some tricks with you that help me get through taper week.

Drink Water

Let’s file this under the “duh” category, but seriously. Even if you’re not running miles and miles this week, be sure to continue to drink water. Nothing makes running or racing worse than being dehydrated – and I speak from experience. (Pit stops, vomiting, headaches, crazy fatigue…) Just do it. I have a hard time with this; often I’m reaching for coffee instead of water, but this week it’s going to be a priority. Drink a lot of water.

Dehydration can affect your marathon performance greatly. According to Runner’s World, “dehydration of two percent of bodyweight leads to about a six percent reduction in running performance.” ( Pfitzinger) Often we don’t even realize we’re dehydrated until it’s too late and we’re trying to play catch up well into our race. Not a good idea. So drink water, and lots of it.

Run- Not Too Much

Yes you still get to run during your taper week. But you aren’t going out for midweek 8-10 mile runs. It’s probably close to 3-5 miles. You may run easy the day before the race as a “shakeout” run, or you may not. Whatever training schedule you’re following should have you cutting back mileage 1-2 weeks prior to race day.

There is nothing worse than going into a race fatigued. Part of what I’m looking forward to this week are fewer and shorter runs. I’ve been exhausted these past couple of months, and I really need a break if I hope to race this Saturday. So enjoy your shorter, easier runs this week. Use the time to visualize your race or just shake out any nerves.

Read

Nothing gets me in a bad mood like waiting to race, being nervous and excited, and just wanting the day to get here, but I have to wait. And if you aren’t running as you’d like to, time seems to stand still. You’re antsy and irritated. I have a suggestion: Read!

There are a lot of great books to get you focused and give you inspiration for race day. Some of my favorites are:

Sleep

No one really has a good race day performance if, at the end of the day, your sleep really is terrible. Be sure to make the effort to get to bed at a reasonable hour every night the week before your race. I would still recommend getting up at the same time, because you don’t want to mess up your sleep patterns. But make it a priority to rest your body.

The night before a race, I often struggle with sleep. The good news is, if the rest of your nights you were well-rested, it shouldn’t impact your race performance. It takes several nights of horrible sleep to ruin a race.

I plan on taking the time and enjoying this taper. Hopefully, my mind will rebound from the struggles I’ve had and let me enjoy this race. No matter what happens, it’s still my race, and I still have accomplished something big.

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