R16 Blog: The Taper

By Hayden Shearman // I heard of a beginner runner who decided to do a marathon at short notice and set out the day before the race to see if he could run the distance … by running the distance … of the marathon … the full 42.2 kilometres of the marathon! Needless to say, although he finished the practice marathon, he didn’t have a successful day on the race itself.

This is the perfect example of what not to do in the taper phase of your Lion Foundation Rotorua Marathon build up. But what should an ideal taper look like and why do it?


Why Taper?

Training makes us tired, but when it is followed by rest and recovery then we become fitter. So the taper period is allowing for a strategic block of rest and recovery where your running workload is lessened in order to freshen up the body and capitalise on all the work you (hopefully!) have already done.

As the story above illustrates, there’s absolutely nothing in the last week you can do to make you fitter, but there’s plenty you can do to make yourself less fit.

What is the Taper?

The bulk of your training is done once you are about three weeks out from race day. So anything you do from here on is just icing on the cake. We all know how an overly ambitious icing with food colouring and too much sugar can suffocate a good cake. So, give your training the respect it deserves and opt for a subtle metaphorical icing on your marathon build up cake … some melted dark chocolate with sliced almonds is all it needs!

When do you do the Taper?

A taper typically starts about three weeks out from race day. This length of time is important because three weeks is the time it takes for most of us to fully recover and adapt to a new training stress.

How do you do a Taper?

Very simply, run just as frequently as you have been but shorten the runs and in the last week throw in an extra rest day or two as well. You will also want to focus a little more on quality (faster running) during the taper period.

This faster running helps you to adapt to marathon pace, makes marathon pace feel more comfortable and provides you with some biomechanical efficiencies and mental toughness that will get you ready for race day. Here are some ideas for workouts leading up to a marathon:

  • Two weeks to go: Do a medium-long run with a couple of blocks of marathon-paced efforts (of about 3-4k each) towards the end of the run.
  • 10 Days to go: Enter a 5k race in order to get in a good over-speed workout and test your fitness in order to set a target time for the marathon.
  • 5 Days to go: Run 4k at exactly your goal marathon pace.
  • 2-3 Days to go: Easy run of 5-8k with a 3-4 controlled fast runs of about 20secs to help you feel light and full of energy (can be good in the final week as you can start to feel a little lethargic).

And should you run the day before race day or make it a rest day? It totally depends on the individual. Some people love having a full rest. Others like to rest two days out and then the day before head out for a very gentle 20min jog in order to loosen things up. Especially helpful if you’ve travelled to the race in order to get rid of travel legs.


Who should do the Taper?

Keep in mind that the above tips are very much middle-of-the-road and different runners respond to tapering in different ways. So there is an element of experimentation that you will need to approach your upcoming race in order to bank away some lessons for next time. Keep a record of your training so if this race goes well you can look back on it and replicate it in the future, or if it goes bad you’ll know what to avoid.

Happy running.


This is the tenth blog of a fortnightly series all about getting you trained up and raring to go for the 2016 Lion Foundation Rotorua Marathon (or half or quarter).  

Be sure to grab your race entry here and check out TempoFit’s TEAM R16 to be part of an incredible community of likeminded runners of all abilities who are all training towards the Lion Foundation Rotorua Marathon 2016 (quarter, half and full distances).

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