As I’m sure you have all heard, the Boston Marathon is quickly approaching. Some consider running the Boston Marathon as the Holy Grail of running events. Rightfully so, given its stringent qualification standards and illustrious history it’s no surprise why the race is so special to runners from all around the world. With the race quickly approaching, the last few weeks have been very interesting as participants start their taper. Most runners are using this time to put the finishing touches on their speed work, get in a final dress rehearsal and put in those last few goal pace miles before next week’s grand event.
Speaking from experience, the last three weeks have been brutal. Coming off a few high volume weeks, we start to feel antsy as the volume lessens and we are forced to give our body the rest it needs to be ready to perform at its peak on Patriots’ Day. At times we find ourselves doubting our training, getting into our own heads about little niggles which manifest throughout our body. These feelings are natural and as I remind myself and my athletes; you have put in the work, now just trust in the training and run a smart race.
Taper is such an important phase of your training and unfortunately often not given the respect that it deserves. Taking into account how different we all recover from the stresses training places on our body, everybody’s taper phase will vary. I have coached athletes who do better and feel sharp maintaining a high volume of miles as they enter the race; while others need time to fully recover before towing the line. It typically takes a few race cycles of working with a coach to get your taper dialed in. This becomes extremely important if an athlete is racing at a highly competitive level where every second counts.
Generally speaking and not taking nutrition into account, we can all follow some basic rules in the last few weeks before a target race by simply adjusting the duration and intensity of our workouts. I find it beneficial to sharpen or dial-in the speed during track sessions. Maintaining a fast turnover and keeping the body in tune with the race rhythm and speed is essential mentally and physically to keep an athlete feeling fresh and strong.
Going beyond the physical aspects, mental tapering, patience and visualization are just as important for a successful race. Using these last few weeks to visualize your entire race, what could go right and what could go wrong… and how to recover from those things, having a plan if you drop your nutrition or if GI issues arise, etc. The last thing you want to do is have to figure something out on the fly. So, visualizing every aspect of the day will help you overcome any unforeseen obstacle.
In a race like Boston, patience and smart pacing may be the difference between a well executed race and one where you are holding on for dear life. Given the fast downhill start, restraint in the first half will set you up for success once you hit the Newton Hills and the infamous Heartbreak Hill.
Best of luck to all my fellow Boston participants, have a blast, you earned your spot. Trust your training, stay mentally strong and don’t forget to say hi to the Girls of Wellesley.
I would love to hear from you, so send me an email with questions, comments or topic requests at [email protected]