To Taper, or Not To Taper?

As I head into the final week of ‘marathon training’ for the Kauai Marathon I started looking thru weekly mileage totals and noticed something that most people would probably find strange. There is no marked decrease in mileage known as The Taper in the 2-3 weeks before a race. Rather the weekly mileage climbs until the beginning of the marathon week. And here is why:

I am not a big fan of ‘The Taper’ going into a marathon or any other race for that matter. Granted I am talking from a racing perspective where the goal is to preform at a maximum level.  There are several reasons that I currently do not subscribe to the traditional marathon training and taper plans.  However the main reason I follow my own training plan and avoid tapering is that I have found I just race faster without it. Plain and simple.

From listening to other runners and just looking at training schedules online it seems like most put your long run 3 weeks before the marathon with maybe only a few seriously hard workouts until the marathon.  To my way of thinking 3 weeks is too long in between, unless you are doing some mid distance runs (10+ miles) at or below your desired race pace.  I feel that 3 weeks of no serious work decreases my fitness level.  Yes I know you are taking it easy to maintain the fitness you have built and avoid injury in this critical period before the race.  But hey haven’t you (hopefully) avoided injury for the 15, 19, or how every many weeks you’ve trained up until this point?  So why back off your training now?  I have found I feel more confident, more physically fit, and mentally prepared if I train hard up until 1 week before a race.  It may just be me but I like going into a race knowing I am at the peak of my fitness and have recently done some hard and long distance workouts. In the past the classic 3 week taper has had me feeling out of shape and lacking confidence.  Call me crazy but I say move the long run to 2 weeks before the marathon (and run it as close to your desired race pace as possible) and the week before your ‘race week’ do a mid-distance run below race pace.  This will help boost your confidence and have you feeling in better shape come race day.  At least in my experience this has proven to be true.

Now the important part…take the week leading up to your marathon easy.  When I say easy I mean low mileage; but try and do those miles at your desired race pace.  This will help condition your body and mind to achieve your desired pace come race day.  My belief is that consistency in your pace is the key to marathon success.  That is why I do almost all my training at or below my desired race pace and skip ‘The Taper’.  Coming from my personal experience all I seem to taper is my fitness and confidence.

That is why I choose Not to Taper.

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