A blog by runners. For runners.

Making the marathon taper work for you

Marathon training programs typically come in a one size fits all prescription so what do you when your needs change? What if your race is postponed or you get sick in the final weeks? Adam's wife shares some tips for she found to help with her situation.

The most difficult of marathon training, for me, is fitting in the training schedule to everyday life. Work, travel, and family can derail the best intentions of a marathon program – not to mention those friends who just don't understand why you'd choose not to go out on a Friday night because you have to get up and run 16 miles the next morning. This summer I've been training for my second marathon. After doing the Chicago Marathon last year in my hometown and having a really great race, I decided to try my hand at the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco.
Part of the challenge this year is adjusting my training schedule from an 18 week program to a 19 week program. I'm following Hal Higdon's Novice 1 18-week program again since I had success with it last year. However, I decided to start 19 weeks before the Nike marathon in order to coincide my training with the Chicago marathon training schedule. My reasons were two-fold: First, I really wanted to do the CARA Ready-to-Run 20 miler which is a great sponsored long run along Chicago's lake front path geared towards those training for Chicago. I did this last year and I found it really helpful to be doing my longest run with so many other people (especially since most of my training runs I run alone). Second, since Adam would be doing Chicago again and I knew we'd have a few weekends out of town this summer, it kept us on a similar schedule so that we could do those out-of-town long runs together.
Since training is coming to a peak and the race is drawing closer I started to get nervous about my taper. Because of when the 20 miler fits into the schedule, I knew I would have to add an extra taper week at the end and wasn't too concerned about it….until the last few days. What should I run for that extra week? Should I add in an extra long run? Increase weekly mileage overall? Is it a terrible idea to do a four week taper?
I found one option in Hal Higdon's “Alternate Marathon Programs.” He gives options for what to do when you find yourself with one, two or three extra weeks at the end of marathon training. For my situation, he suggests repeating the 17th week of training (weekly runs of 4mi, 6mi, 3mi with a Saturday 8 mi “long run”). I've been debating adding another week that ends with a 14 or 16 miler but Hal reassures that his program will not jeopardize my fitness (a concern of mine).
Come marathon day, I'm sure I'll be ok whatever I decide to do. I really believe that most of my training is dependent on getting myself in the right mindset. As long as I think I'll be fine, I will be. I'm curious though, what are your experiences with unorthodox marathon tapering?