I normally have a love/hate relationship with tapers. I think that all runners do. We know that its necessary but we also want to run more like we always have. I'm a girl and having a hormonal week, so therefore I'm SO thankful to not have to run as much this week. The mileage is going to go right back up after my race (I have 15 miles planned the next weekend-yikes), so I'm trying to be mentally prepared for that!
So, there is actual science behind a taper. It's not just stopping so that your body is repaired for the marathon. That is obviously a big part of it, but there are certain lengths of tapers that are best for different athletes depending on their fitness abilities. The percentage of help that a taper can give you is between 0.5% and 6% and if you are tailoring your taper to your levels, then you are going to have more success with that. Did I design my taper to me? No. Why I don't do these things? Who.even.knows? I just started with my coach so I should be better about this stuff! haha!
It all depends on you, how in shape you are, your age, the capacities of your circulatory system, and of course your muscles that need to be rested. If you are less prepared for a race, then you will need to taper at a shorter amount of time. If you are more prepared for a race, then your fitness abilities are high, and when combined with the recovery of your circulatory system, research has shown that this is an awesome combo for going into a race very strong. That is the very simple version as this is not meant to be a science lesson.
My taper was short, but I feel that my endurance is pretty high but tapering is also a mental game. I just tapered for a half ironman not long ago, and I felt I needed to get in one more super long run before my marathon (18 miler two weeks ago). The way that things lined up, the only time I could fit that in would have been the week after my half ironman (no thanks) or the following week which was 2 weeks out from my marathon. That's the one that I choose. Normally, if you look at a taper for a marathon online, it's going to tell you to do your last super long run 3 weeks out, then do around 13 then do 9 the weekend before. I personally don't like to think that I haven't run that far in 3 weeks, as that gives me anxiety going into a race, so you have to learn yourself.
My goals for this marathon used to be very simple:
That's what my goals always are. I never have time goals if I'm being honest. My first marathon where I qualified for Boston was kind of a mishap, which I know is ridiculous as some work for years to get there. It makes me feel bad sometimes like the kid that didn't study for the test but still got an A. I don't want to be that guy, but having times stresses me out.
... which is why I'm probably now stressed for this marathon.
Since starting with my coach and a little before that, I started to challenge myself. I thought that if I worked harder, I could be better. My coach was wonderful and looked at all of the elevation of the marathon and gave me exact time goals to hit for each mile (with of course telling me to go how I feel as well), but I'm shooting for 3:20. I'm shooting for 3:20 on a marathon course with rolling hills. Yikes! Sounds painful!
I haven't decided if I'm okay with having goals for marathons yet. I won't know until I actually do it, but leading up to it, it makes me a little bit more nervous and I'm not sure I want to take all the passion and fun out of it by striving for times. A marathon is 26.2 miles, and that's enough to deal with much less the stress of having to "race it." Who knows? My hope is that I'll get there, feel awesome, and that racing it won't feel bad at all. I think we all hope for that! haha!
The last goal that I have for this race is that I just looked up the times for my age group, and for the past 3 years, the best time for #1 in my age group was 3:26! Last year's winner went 3:34. I'm not sure if that's because of the difficulty of the course, the people that come out for this race (maybe it's smaller than I thought) but of course in the back of my mind, there is that desire to place. Placing always feels weird when I look at the times of people at like the NYC Marathon or what not. My times don't even come CLOSE, so I never want to be like 'Oh I placed' because in all honesty, my times are not elite by any stretch of the imagination. But, hey!... if it's possible to place...why not right? haha!