Two Weeks Out: Lack Of Specificity
Perhaps the most detrimental marathon tapering mistake runners make is not keeping the workouts specific to the marathon in the last two weeks of the training cycle. For example, I often see runners try to do short, speed-oriented workouts to build confidence, make them feel faster, or because the thought of long workouts during the taper phase scares them.
The problem with this approach is two-fold. First, by performing a workout that uses an energy system you haven’t been utilizing in the last four to six weeks, you actually fatigue your muscles more because your body isn’t conditioned to it. It would similar to performing a set of heavy squats when you haven’t lifted weights in 4-6 weeks.
Second, one of the most critical components to race-day success is being able to execute your race plan and run the correct pace, especially at the start of the race. In the last two weeks, you should capitalize on the opportunity to practice marathon pace. Not only does this ensure you’re working the exact energy systems you need for race day, but it will provide that crucial, last-minute pacing feedback you need to execute the perfect race plan.
How to avoid this mistake:
Do two workouts this week. The first is a longer, straight marathon-pace run, usually 6-8 miles, depending on your average weekly training volume. This workout usually occurs 10 days out from race day to ensure maximum recovery. The second workout is a broken marathon-pace run, usually 2 x 3 miles at marathon pace with a 3-minute rest between reps. Again, this workout will help you dial in your race pace and the 3-minute rest ensures that it’s not a hard effort.