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The Three Most Common Tapering Mistakes

  • By Jeff Gaudette
  • Published Oct. 22, 2013
  • Updated Oct. 23, 2013 at 7:22 PM UTC

Three Weeks Out: Resting Too Much

The single biggest mistake a lot of runners make in the last three weeks leading into the race in over-tapering. This will often lead to a flat, sluggish feeling on race day and increases the chance that you’ll get sick as your metabolism and immune system are thrown out of whack due to the sudden change in activity and decreased demands on the body.

Most athletes don’t feel good immediately following a couple of extra easy days or a rest day. They expect immediate gratification and a newfound a pep in their step with just a few easy days. Keep in mind that it can take up 10 to 12 days to fully absorb and recover from a long run or hard workout.

How to avoid this mistake:

Most runners will find that reducing weekly mileage to 80-90% of maximum will provide a sufficient respite from the training load without leaving them feeling flat or sluggish. For example, if your peak mileage during the marathon buildup was 60 miles, your mileage would drop to 48-54 miles three weeks before the race.

Likewise, make sure you maintain some intensity throughout the week and are not restricting yourself to just easy runs. While your hardest workouts are definitely behind you, it’s important not to step off the gas pedal right away. I recommend performing just one workout this week. Here is my favorite:

* 8-mile tempo run. Run the first 4 miles at marathon pace and the second 4 miles as fast as you can, which usually falls around half marathon pace. This workout provides some practice with running at your goal marathon pace (which should feel pretty easy at this point in the training) and a chance to “blow out the tubes” and get in one more confidence-boosting session. With mostly marathon-paced workouts left for training over the final two weeks, it can be good for your confidence to run quickly and finish strong and fast.

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Jeff Gaudette

Jeff Gaudette

Jeff has been running for 13 years, at all levels of the sport. He was a two time Division-I All-American in Cross Country while at Brown University and competed professionally for 4 years after college for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. Jeff's writing has been featured in Running Times magazine, Endurance Magazine, as well as numerous local magazine fitness columns.

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