“Tapering, in the context of sports, refers to the practice of reducing, or tapering off, exercise in the days just before an important competition. Tapering is customary in many endurance sports, such as the marathon, athletics and swimming. For many athletes, a significant period of tapering is essential for optimal performance. The tapering period frequently lasts as much as a week or more.”
For some reason I decided to wikipedia the word taper a few weeks back when I started easing down on my training. I thought it was pretty funny that on the long list of options when you type in taper there is actually a page for the ‘sports’ tapering. The quote above is from that page.
You can check out more of what wikipedia has to say about tapering here.
In my experience the taper is often a difficult phase of the training. You can start to feel a bit lethargic and lazy and fat and out of shape. After training pretty hard for the past 2 months you’d think that the taper would be like a reward. But, I sort of feel like I a cheating or something, that I really should still be hammering out the miles. But, you’ve gotta trust that it is going to have the desired effect.
We developed a reasonable plan for the taper, partly based on cutting back my mpw by x% of my max, but also partly just based on feel. In the middle of the hardest part of the training I didn’t really have the option to not go running if I was tired and feeling crap, but the past week or so I have had that option.
I also did a bit of research (asking people and searching running logs on the internet – total running geek, I know) into what other people have done as a taper for the marathon. My two favourites are Bill Rodgers’ before the 1975 Boston marathon and Rod DeHaven’s (week of April 02, 2001) before the 2001 Boston marathon. I think I like Rod’s better, mostly because he sort of explains why he ran 130miles the week before the race: he had a rough patch in the middle of his build-up and felt like he needed to get more work in, so he ‘gambled’ with a 1 week taper. I don’t know why Rodgers tapered the way he did, but it certainly worked?!?
Don’t worry I didn’t follow their lead. Although there results were both great, so maybe I should have?!? Only time will tell………