Regardless of their duration, a taper requires backing off your weekly mileage in order to rest the legs for race day. Mammoth Track Club coach Terrence Mahon, who guides elite marathoners Kastor, Josh Cox amongst others, has his top runners running 120-130 miles per week during their peak training periods. Surprisingly, however, he doesn’t cut down their overall volume too much during their taper, reducing it down for most to a relatively still high 90 miles in the final week before a key race. “We have found in the past that dropping mileage too much leads to a de-training effect,” Mahon says. “We don’t lower things universally in our tapers.” Mahon believes marathoners need to keep doing long runs throughout their tapering phase. “The farther you get away from big [mileage] numbers, the more confidence you lose,” he says. Mahon maintains that the best way to keep his runners close to the “big numbers” is to give them a longer single session, approximately 17 miles, during their taper period, and then follow up the next day with a short 6 easy miles. “It keeps their head close to the race distance,” he says.
Hunt is more systematic with how she handles weekly mileage during the taper phase. In general, Hunt assigns “about a 10% reduction in mileage the third week out, a 15% reduction the second week out and the week of the marathon about a 50%+ reduction.”