Well it’s the day before the marathon and I have just come back from my 25 min easy run with a few 10 second strides thrown reminding my legs what they have to do tomorrow. It’s only 8:30 in the morning and now what to do for the rest of the day? It’s hard to stay relaxed and rested with all the extra energy that is waiting to burst. It’s easier when I am staying in a hotel room, because there is not much to do but read and watch TV and maybe wander the halls a little. When I’m at home I start thinking about things I should do, like, maybe the floor could use a quick vacuum or those weeds I never got to this summer should be yanked. Don’t do it! I know it’s hard but try to get lost in a good book. Stretch out on the bed and put your feet up. Maybe even take a little nap. I try to get a 20 minute nap in but not longer than that because it may keep me from falling asleep on the early side tonight. It’s an early wake up at 5:30 and a long morning, so getting rest is key. I always have trouble sleeping the night before a big race so I want to be sleepy by 9:00. I have already picked up my race number so I am ready for tomorrow. The rest of the day I keep a water bottle with me to remind myself to hydrate all day. You know what they say, when you’re peeing clear, you are hydrated. I think about my strategy a little, remind myself of the course and where the aid stations will be and then try not to think too much more or my stomach starts to get knotted up. All in all, it’s not my favorite day but before I know it, I will be toeing the line once more and hoping the marathon gods will be on my side.
Marathon Taper Time
It’s taper time and this is always a hard time for me. On the one hand, I look forward to the shorter runs but I also tend to get a little anxious about cutting back too soon or too late. There is a general rule of thumb. You should start to decrease your mileage by 20 % starting 3-4 weeks out from your “big race”. I do my last 3 hour run 3 weeks before race day. You still want to maintain your key workouts of the week, the long run (although now that has dropped back in mileage); the speed work and perhaps a tempo run if you have been doing a 2nd quality workout for the week. Your easy runs should be just that, easy allowing for some recovery. You can’t’ beat your body up every day!
I am a big fan of cross training and still ride a bike 6 days a week and am now getting back in the pool again after a year off from swimming. The cross training helps keep my muscles balanced and helps flush the lactic acid build up with an easy spin on a bike or easy swim in the pool. During this taper period, I have to resist the temptation to increase those workouts to supplement the reduced amount of time on the roads. It’s hard for me to sit still!
My focus for the last few months has been The Baltimore Marathon. I planned several races over the past months as tune up races, or key races to check my fitness level. Ideally, I would have run the Philadelphia half marathon which is 4 weeks before the Baltimore marathon. I have done this routine many times, and it is a good indicator of where my fitness level is at that point. This year, however, I had a conflict and have not run a half marathon since mid-august. That does make me a little nervous (hence the pre marathon anxiety that I am starting to feel!) I did run a few 5k’s over the past several weeks, trying to run them at the end of a heavy training week, to give myself a good speed workout on tired legs. The following day, instead of taking a day off, I ran my long run for the week, so I was running my 20 plus miler on tired legs. Over the years, with the more the 35 marathons I’ve run, I have tried different methods of training and tapering for a marathon and this seems to work for me.
But I have had many years of running and what works for me, may not be the best plan for you. The most important thing is to listen to your body. It is hard for an athlete to back off from training, but it is important in order for all your hard work in training to pay off. You have to allow your body to rebuild from all the training you have done. It is in those last miles of the marathon that the tapering will pay off.
Rest and sleep and nutrition are key parts of the taper too. In the several weeks before my big race, I also worry if the reduced amount of exercise will result in putting on added pounds that I don’t want to carry through a marathon. I am very aware of my diet and have to remind myself to eat a little less, because I am burning fewer calories. The peanut butter M and M’s have to be hidden!
During the week of the marathon, I really back off and run about 1/3 of my weekly mileage. This is the hardest time for me. Of course the anxiety level increases with the extra energy I have and it’s a battle within me to keep from running extra miles. It’s a good time to catch up on desk work, or read a book if only I could tie myself to the chair, that would help!