Dealing with taper time

Many of you will be lining up to start your races at the Melbourne Marathon Festival in less than two weeks time.  Congratulations on getting this far!  You will mostly have gone through the tough, long preparation for the 10km, half marathon or marathon distances and now entering a taper period, to freshen you up for race day.  This is a weird and wonderful couple of weeks where things are more likely to go wrong than right.  Many people can derail their races during this period, so I thought it would be useful to run through five 'race ready' tips with to help keep you focused and ready to roll when you get to the start line in under two weeks time.

Here goes...

  1. Dealing with the taper: The taper is a period of approximately 2-3 weeks where your training will get a little lighter and you ‘freshen up’ for the race.  This is usually accompanied by strange feelings and decisions by runners.  Some of the feelings I have had whilst tapering include:  Feeling as though you aren’t doing enough training, feeling really fat and finding imaginary injuries everywhere.  This is all pretty normal stuff.  Try and embrace the reduced load on your body and enjoy it knowing that you are through the hardest part of your training plan.
  2. Avoiding Injury:  Your individual training plans will mostly have just peaked before the taper. This is unsurprisingly the point where many people get injured.  This is the time to be sensible with your training.  If you are halfway through a run and you feel something is not right in your achilles or wherever, back off and finish the session at an easy pace.  If you have stuck to your training plan, been consistent over the last few weeks, then you will have more to lose at this stage than you have to gain.  This same principle applies to rest days.  If there is a rest day on your plan, rest.  Simple.  This approach requires discipline, but it is all within your control.  
  3. Race day nutrition:  Make sure you practice eating and drinking on your training runs, whatever you will use in the race.  If you are going to use a specific brand of drink or food, use it in your last couple of long runs or tempo runs.  Even holding a drink bottle feels very different if you are not used to it, so have a go and then at least if you don’t like it, you know in advance.  Each of us will have different sensitivities to foods, so there is no one rule on this stuff.  My general advice is to keep things simple and stick with what you know.  If you like bananas, don’t get lured by marketing or what others are doing into taking a caffeine gel every km on race day.  Your stomach won’t thank you!
  4. General nutrition: Particularly for those doing half marathon and marathon distances, don’t try and diet your way to the start line.  Yes, you want to feel light and energetic, but you also have to have enough energy to last the whole run.  It is relatively normal to put on a little bit of weight in the last few days.  Have your carb loading meal two days prior, rather than the night before so you don’t feel heavy on race morning.  Stick to tried and tested foods in the couple of days leading up to the race, particularly race morning.
  5. Clothing and equipment: We all like a new purchase to make us feel good in the lead up to the race, but consider wearing what makes you feel good, feel fast but also feel most comfortable.  Trust me, I have run dressed as a giant pineapple and comfort makes a massive difference!  Also, wear an old t-shirt or jumper over the top of your race gear to the start line on race morning.  It is going to be cold.  Just before the start, take it off, chuck it over the barriers and then get running!

I am proud to say that there are five GoRunners training for the 10km (2), half marathon (2) and marathon (1) events at the Melbourne Marathon Festival.  I wish them all the luck in the world, safe in the knowledge that they have put in the training to accomplish their race day goals. Go get it guys! 

If you are interested in help running your first race, getting your next personal best time, or improving your running, get in touch with me