Marathon Training: 3 Things NOT to Do During Taper Time

Three tapering pitfalls to avoid.

Congrats! You made it to the taper, the winding-down period that typically comes three weeks out from race day. After months of hard training, odds are you’ve been looking forward to the taper. Your longest run was most likely this past weekend, and now it’s easy going from here on in. Or, er, is it?

In some ways, the last three weeks leading up to the marathon is the most important window of training time — not because it’s the time to gain fitness, but rather because it’s when you can lose it. So instead of telling you what you should do during taper time, here are three things to avoid doing so you don’t sacrifice the months of hard training you put in for the race.

1. Tapering is NOT a break from training.
This may seem like an obvious one but trust me, it’s not. What can end up happening here is you’re so exhausted physically and mentally from the months of hard training, that come taper time you subconsciously disengage from training. Once you’re mentally disengaged, it’s tough to regain the focus needed to complete the marathon itself. To avoid this pitfall, approach each remaining run — even though they’re shorter, mile-wise — with the same intensity and focus as you would have during heavy training.

2. Tapering is NOT a time to “make-up” or “cram in” extra training. As my high school coach would say after months of hard training, “The hay is the barn.” Running is not like taking a test; there is no cramming in running. Your finishing time is the result of the months of hard work you’ve done, not the result of a week or two of training. Adding in additional miles now will not help you run faster.

3. Tapering is NOT a time to experiment. Have you ever heard the expression, “Live like a clock”? For runners this means establishing a routine that works and sticking with it. Hopefully by now you should have everything figured out: your ideal pre-race meal, your fueling during the race, your pace and even your race-day outfit. (Ever seen runners with two blood spots on their chests? As if the marathon isn’t enough pain … ) Don’t deviate from what works during taper time.


Cory Smith is the owner of Run Your Personal Best, an online running coaching business, and a two-time NCAA Division 1 National Qualifier and 4:03 miler while at Villanova University. He also serves as Running Editor for Gear Institute and has been a regular running contributor for Be Well Philly for the Broad Street Run and the Philadelphia Marathon.

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