How To Taper For A Marathon

As a marathon runner, I can confidently say that tapering is one of the most crucial aspects of marathon training. Tapering refers to the period of reduced training volume and intensity leading up to the race. It allows your body to recover, repair, and ultimately perform at its peak on race day. In this article, I will share my personal insights and tips on how to effectively taper for a marathon.

The Importance of Tapering

Tapering is often overlooked or misunderstood by many runners. However, it plays a vital role in optimizing your performance on race day. During the taper period, your body goes through important physiological adaptations. It replenishes glycogen stores, repairs damaged muscle fibers, and reduces accumulated fatigue.

One mistake that some runners make is trying to cram in last-minute training sessions to make up for missed workouts. This approach can do more harm than good, as it increases the risk of injury and does not allow your body to fully recover. To ensure a successful and injury-free marathon, it is important to respect the tapering phase.

Duration of Taper

The duration of the taper varies for each individual, but a general guideline is to begin tapering about two to three weeks before the race. This allows enough time for your body to reap the benefits of tapering without losing the gains you’ve made during your training cycle.

During the first week of taper, you should aim to reduce your overall training volume by around 20-30%. This includes cutting back on both mileage and intensity. The second week should see a further reduction in volume, typically around 40-50%. Finally, during the last week leading up to the marathon, your training should be minimal, with the focus on rest and recovery.

Adjusting Intensity

While reducing volume is essential during the taper, it doesn’t mean you should completely avoid running. Maintaining some level of intensity is crucial to keep your muscles engaged and your cardiovascular system primed. However, it is important to decrease the intensity of your workouts gradually.

Instead of intense speed workouts or long tempo runs, consider incorporating shorter, easy-paced runs into your tapering plan. These runs will help maintain your running rhythm and allow you to stay mentally sharp without putting excessive stress on your body.

The Mental Game

Tapering also involves preparing yourself mentally for the marathon. As the race approaches, it’s natural to feel a mix of excitement and nervousness. This is where visualizations and positive affirmations can be incredibly helpful.

Take some time to visualize yourself crossing the finish line, feeling strong and accomplished. Remind yourself of all the hard work and training you’ve put in, and trust that your body is ready for the challenge. Surround yourself with a support network of fellow runners or friends who understand the journey you’re on.

Rest and Recovery

Rest and recovery are paramount during the tapering phase. Getting enough sleep is crucial to allow your body time to repair and rebuild. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. Additionally, incorporate activities that promote relaxation and reduce stress, such as yoga or meditation.

During the last week before the marathon, it’s a good idea to focus on light cross-training activities like swimming or cycling. This helps keep your muscles loose and increases blood flow without putting additional strain on your joints.


Tapering is not just a break from running; it is a strategic and necessary part of marathon training. It allows your body to fully recover and prepare for the demands of the race. By respecting the tapering period, adjusting intensity, and prioritizing rest and recovery, you give yourself the best chance of performing at your best on race day. Remember, the marathon is the culmination of months of hard work, and the taper is your final step towards success.