How to avoid Marine Corps Marathon taper tantrums

I usually hate to taper.

My trusty roasted vegetable lasagna. Just one thing I love about tapering.

My trusty roasted vegetable lasagna. Just one thing I love about tapering.

This week, though, I’m having a blast. Yesterday’s cross-training workout consisted of 30 easy minutes on the stationary bike. That’s all! I usually save the day’s newspaper for my stationary bike dates, and bring a book and magazine with me, too, just to be safe. Yesterday, I barely had time to get through Monday’s Washington Post before the workout was done. Tonight’s workout: a 30-minute run I’m looking forward to immensely. I’ll peel off a bit early from my group run, heading home to eat the roasted vegetable lasagna I prepared and froze last week, just for nights like this.

Here’s how to replicate my taper bliss:

Train so you need it. When I trained for a marathon in 2007, I was burned out, for sure, but I can’t say my muscles were fatigued enough to really beg for a taper. This time, my legs are begging, pleading, cajoling me to take a week off. Also, since my training is a lot more varied, with hard cross-training efforts and core work regular parts of my regime, it feels like even more of a treat to drop back to just a few 30-minute runs.

Focus on other stuff. I happen to have one of my busier work weeks of the year this week, with multiple deadlines floating around. But even workout-wise, I’m using the time I’d usually spend training to focus intensely on stretching and foam-rolling, which usually go sorely neglected.

Follow good advice. I’ve mentioned before that Olympian Keith Brantly, who I got to interview for a few Gainesville Sun stories a couple years ago, tells runners: “Repeat to yourself: ‘Rest is training. Rest is training.'” He’s a certified coach who has run marathons in the Olympics. That means he knows his stuff, as do the other reputable books and magazines I get advice from. Everything I’ve read about tapering suggests that it should last three weeks, that it’s a bad idea to squeeze in an extra workout during that time, that it’s not the time to diet. I’m listening and not questioning.

Just go with it. I usually freak about gaining weight thanks to some extra carbs and the decreased workload. I once almost burst into tears upon reading this quote from a prominent running coach: “If you worry that you’re gaining weight during your taper, wear a pair of pants with a forgiving waistline.” This time, I’m just going with it. And not that it matters, but it turns out I haven’t gained a single pound, despite doing things like adding 1/3 c oatmeal to my daily breakfast (I know: whoa, Nellie! 1/3 c!). Same goes for the weather forecast. I started out checking obsessively, but then I thought about the ZOOMA Annapolis 10K. Forecasts promised a cool morning with 0 percent chance of rain. We woke up to find it pouring. Pouring! We ran the race in garbage bags. The weather’s gonna do what it’s gonna do. All I can do it be ready to run.

Focus on mind games. I’ve been visualizing the miles in 5-mile chunks, focusing on a different section of the race every day. This helps ward off negative thoughts.

Treat yourself. I’ve got a massage scheduled tomorrow. I’m taking lots of baths with Epsom salt. How can that be a bad thing?

How do you make your taper tolerable? Let me know by posting a comment below.


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5 responses to “How to avoid Marine Corps Marathon taper tantrums

  1. Joe Pope

    How much do you cut back on core and strength work during your taper?

    • Really good question … I cut out all hard strength work — single-leg leg presses, lunges, squats — starting three weeks out. I cut out balance work and hip-strengthening stuff last week, and this week, I’m just doing some plank position here and there. Not based on any science whatsoever, but seems to be working for me!

      • I do that too! I feel lighter when I cut out strength stuff a few weeks from race day. I’m excited for strength training this winter… My focus is going to be pullups and I will be a mad pullup machine!
        Have fun on your taper!

  2. Heather

    Well, I don’t “taper” right now because the Half-m has become just something I go do and enjoy. ha, BUT, when I start training – this page is bookmarked! 😉 I love your attitude – the obsessive weather checking is one thing I will definitely confess to. But you’re right – it won’t change anything other than your wardrobe choices that day!

    Enjoy that massage and extra 1/3 c oatmeal 😉

  3. i used to dread tapering… but you are right – if you train hard (and train right) you will be ready for the taper physically and mentally. all i do, so far, in tapering is cut back on mileage, watch what i eat, and try to get extra rest. i’ve never tried a pre-marathon massage, but i can go for more time in the hot shower/bath!

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