The taper begins: time to rest but stay marathon ready

With less than two weeks until the Canberra Marathon, it's time to taper and allow the body to rest and recover before race day.

I’m officially into my taper. After logging one final week of 140 km, complete with a pair of tough sessions, it’s now mostly easy running until race day.

The goal over the next 11 days (or so) is to let the body rest, recover, and absorb all the months of hard training, without letting the mind wander too far from the task at hand in Canberra.

In other words: rest, but stay ready. I don’t want the marathon to be constantly plaguing my mind during my taper, but I do want to stay mentally engaged on what it is I need to do to be satisfied with the outcome.

Staying ready means being mindful of the preparation I still need to do, in terms of nutrition, exercising and race day planning, as well as focused on the objectives I want to accomplish.

As is so often said about the taper, the hard work is finished. Now, it’s all about showing up on race day and executing.

Training week at a glance

  • Total KM: 141. Not much of a dip from the weekly average of my training block, but a fair reduction from the 158 km I logged in my previous week. It’s the beginning of a decrease in mileage as I get into the proper 2-week taper.
  • Longest Run: 30 km. Solo grind. Shortest long run in a long time.
  • Toughest run: On Friday I ran a 10km tempo at marathon pace (3:20/km), followed by 3 km getting progressively faster. The goal was 3:15, 3:10, 3:05. The reality was 3:12, 3:10, 3:08. This felt tough at the end, when I could tell my heart rate was starting to increase, but it actually felt quite comfortable through the first 11km.
  • Biggest confidence booster: How comfortable I was feeling in the above session was a good indicator. The taper period can be a bit nerve wracking, thinking (wrongly) that you might lose some fitness. This was an excellent final session to leave me feeling good about where I’m at in terms of my fitness.

Key sessions

In this final week before the taper, I had two sessions on the program. Tuesday at the track was 6 x 1km off 60 seconds rest. It was a short, sharp session in dismal weather.

The staff at the gym were very surprised to see us show up, with the rain falling in torrents outside.

The goal was to run around 3:00/km for the first four reps, then to pick it up for the final two. I ended up going 3:01, 2:59, 3:03, 3:02, 2:55, 2:57. Considering the inside lane was pretty much pure puddle, it went well.

It’s always a bit hard to get rolling at a quick pace in these early morning sessions (6:30 am start), but it’s nice to get them ticked-off and to have the company of the training group.

I ran the Friday tempo solo on the bike path. I focused on keeping the pace nice and controlled, with a kickdown in the final 3km. As mentioned, it was a good confidence booster heading into the taper.

My Sunday long run wasn’t technically a session, but I paced it like a progression run: 6 x 5km (4:50s, 4:30s, 4:20s, 4:10s, 4:05s, 3:55s).

Aside from a bit of shoe trouble — I started in a new pair of Pegasus Turbos, but was getting a blister, so made a quick pitstop to change into my 1080s around the 17km mark — I was happy with the run.

It was a solid way to end the “work” section of my marathon training, and enter the taper.

Final thoughts before Canberra

There’s nervousness and excitement as race day approaches. And some (self-imposed) pressure.

It’s been a long time since I’ve lined-up in a road race, and I’m chomping at the bit for an opportunity to run fast and perform at a high level.

A taper period can sometimes serve to heighten those feelings and anxieties.

I’m conscious, however, that I need to maintain a level head and calm demeanour over the coming days. I’m hoping I can achieve that through trust.

The importance of trust

I’ve put in solid, consistent work over the past 4 months, hit key milestones and workouts, and steadily built more layers onto the 12 months of training I’d done before that.

I need to trust my fitness, my strength, and my determination; my will to push through pain, when it gets tough, and run solo (if necessary).

I’ve also game-planned with my coach and worked out a race day strategy that I’m comfortable with. There’s some flexibility, depending on the conditions and who is in the race, but I know what needs to be done.

I need to trust my coach, and trust that I have the patience and power to execute our plan.

That trust will serve as an anchor point — something I can return to in the coming days if I’m getting nervous or having self-doubt, and something I can hopefully concentrate on in the race.

If I can carry it into and through the race, I’m confident things will go well.

Next week I’ll look at some of my more specific goals and expectations for the race. Until then, you can follow me on Strava. Or message me if you have any questions or tips at myles@runcreature.com. And you can help us grow RunCreature by reading and sharing our great content.

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I’m Myles Gough. I’m a distance runner, writer and teacher. I started RunCreature to tell stories about athletes, runners, and the issues that matter to our community. 

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