The Art of Tapering

With the Boston Marathon now just 8 days away, that 3rd Monday in April everyone has been training for since the turn of the calendar is suddenly very real.  As we say in the running circle: the taper has officially begun.

But tapering is tricky.  Everyone seems to have a theory on how best to taper prior to a marathon, which I think speaks to the complexity of the issue.  I’m not smart enough to tackle how others should taper, but after several good marathon training cycles, I know what works best for me.  And although I’m not sure what gets me physically ready for race day would work for the masses, I do think everyone could benefit from readjusting their mental approach to tapering.

As both runs and workouts begin to shorten, I believe there is a tendency to lose a bit of focus in the final weeks of training.  My best guess as to why this happens is that many runners see their workouts on paper as “easier” because the volume is so much less than what they’ve been doing for the past 6-10 weeks.  The mentality that you’ll be able to “just glide through those last few workouts” is probably what causes people to get concerned during their taper.  It’s not that you weren’t physically ready for the workout, it’s that you weren’t mentally ready.  I believe that approaching those final few workouts with the same mentality as you did for your workouts and long runs back in week 8 will yield better results during those final weeks.

This thought process, for me, is also consistent with how I would like to race – I want to be able to close races well and finish strong.  But I don’t think this is a light-switch that can just be turned on come race day; it’s something that takes practice.  Showing up for practices mentally ready for my last few workouts, and not just going through the motions, is part of the mental exercise.  And so is making all right non-running related choices over the last few weeks: sleep, diet, awareness that I’m not on my feet too much, etc.  Just like my race, I want to finish my training cycle strong.  It’s part of what gives me confidence on race day!

Quick updates

Yes, I’m aware that I’m a week behind on the training updates, which means you get the last two weeks all at once.  I was in San Francisco for work March 31-April 5, during which the MBA students in our program met with marketing and front office execs for different sports product companies, professional sports teams, agencies, and businesses who operate in the sport sponsorship world.  The trip was great, and also opened my eyes to just how far behind the times the sport of track and field is in comparison to others in the industry (I’ll save my thoughts for another post after the marathon).

View from our Wednesday afternoon meetings at GMR Marketing

View from our Wednesday afternoon meetings at GMR Marketing


On the back-end of that trip, I traveled to Sacramento for the SACTOWN 10-mile.  For me, this was nothing more than one last long tempo workout – finishing 3rd overall was just an added bonus.  I like being able to use races as simulators because it forces yourself to actually go through your race day routine.  As it ended up, I ran most of the race by myself, but I don’t think I would have run as fast, or felt as good, had I just done a 10-mile tempo back in Eugene.  So thanks to the Sacramento Running Association for giving me the opportunity for one last quality tune-up!

I spent the first part of this week re-immersing myself into my normal EUG routine: back to the familiar running routes, the morning strength and conditioning regime, and actually making meals for myself again!  After a light hill workout on Wednesday, I completed my last real substantial workout before the marathon yesterday morning: 3 x 3-mile, :60-:90 rest.  This has become a benchmark workout I do 10 days or so out from race day.  Paraphrasing what Ian told me afterwards, “not that I ever think anything bad will happen to you, but it’s always nice to get through the last workout without any issues.”  I couldn’t have agreed more.

Now it’s time to rest up and enjoy a few more nights of sleep in my own bed before leaving for Beantown on Friday.  Look for one final pre-race update next Friday.  The week we’ve all been waiting for is finally here!

3/31 – 4/6 AM PM Total
Monday 45 mins S&C; 11 miles 11
Tuesday 6 miles 10 miles 16
Wednesday 4 mile warmup. 25 x 400m, :45 rest. 3 mile cooldown. 13 miles total. 13
Thursday 12 miles 6 miles 18
Friday 6 miles 3.5 mile warmup. 3 mile tempo. 8 x :30 strides during 6 mile cooldown. 12 miles total. 18
Saturday 8 miles 8
Sunday SACTOWN 10 mile race. 16 miles total 5 miles 21


4/7 – 4/13 AM PM Total
Monday 11 miles 6 miles 17
Tuesday 11 miles 6 miles 17
Wednesday 3.5 mile warmup. 8 x Hendricks Hill loop. 6 x 150m strides. 3.5 mile cooldown. 11 miles total. 5 miles 16
Thursday 45 mins S&C; 10 miles 6 miles 16
Friday 9 miles 9
Saturday 3 mile warmup. 3 x 3 mile, :60-:90 rest. 2 mile cooldown. 14 miles 14
Sunday 16 miles 16

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Comments (3)

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    Tony Mollica


    It’s hard for me to wrap my head around a taper that has two weeks each consisting of 105 miles. LOL.


  • Avatar

    Fred Pier


    Craig..Best of Luck on your Boston Marathon…we all will be rooting for you….lastly HAVE FUN !!!
    Uncle Fritz


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