Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Marthon Taper: Fast or slow? Short or long?

There's little sweeter than reaching your taper after a long build up for a big race. After hours on the run, you finally get to relax a bit and let your injuries heal and legs rejuvenate. If you're lucky, you'll even get to spend some non-running time with your family and friends, or joyfully alone with the New York Times. It's one of the great times in training, nestled as it is between the weeks of hard work and the building anticipation of the race itself.

Still, after all you've invested, it's hard not to wonder if the taper schedule you've chosen will help those big miles payoff like they should. Should you go with a long or short taper? How about a fast or slow taper? Or any combination thereof?

It’s hard to know really, and as with most things running, it usually comes down to seeing what works best for you. We at Run Junkie tend to be partial to a classic three week marathon taper touted by the likes of famed coach Peter Pfitzinger (link), but with a twist – speed. Instead of plodding along at sub-marathon pace in those final weeks, we’ve taken to heart some compelling study results (link) showing that cutting way back on distance and adding some simple 500 meter repeats can really boost performance on race day. And, to be honest, it’s nice to stretch one’s legs a bit after all those long, slow miles.

Coming at things from a different angle was a recent Runner’s World story (link) pushing a short, two week taper that finishes up with a pretty long run just a week before race day. The reasoning is that most marathon runners these days follow training schedules with relatively low-mileage weeks, and they don’t need the recovery time implicit in longer, classic tapers developed for big mileage runners. Though, we’ve talked with runners who’ve had some success with this approach, we still think the jury’s out on this one.

Check things out for yourself and let us know what works best for you.

Runner’s World
Taper Traps
Taper Too Long?

Pete Pfitzinger
Tapering for a Marathon

Trail Runner
Rest for the Weary

Running Research News
Fast, Exponential Decay May be the Way

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