Coach Dylan: Marathon Taper

May 04, 2016 Posted By: Barbara Mitchell


This past weekend saw many runners across Canada competing in marathons in Vancouver, Toronto, and Missassauga. Dreams were achieved and shattered. That’s the nature of the marathon. But spring marathon season is not complete until the Ottawa Race Weekend on May 27-28th. For those of you training for Ottawa you are getting into some of your biggest weeks of training and completing some of your hardest and longest runs. Your focus is keen and your motivation high. But when we are in the thick of training we often forget about preparing ourselves for the taper and setting specific goals for the race.

The marathon is a long long race and you need your body to be rested and ready to go. Your taper should begin 3 weeks before the race, with a gradual decrease in both volume and intensity. Finding that balance between too much and too little training during the taper can be tough. But less is always best, especially the week of the race. No matter if you feel terrible or feel great, don’t think you can gain fitness by doing more and don’t think you will lose fitness by doing less. However, the taper is not a time to throw away all your usual training habits and pat yourself on the back for a successful block of training leading up to the race. You still need to be dedicated and diligent about your training, no matter how little of it you are doing in the final week before the race. Keep the same routine you have for the entire training block. Don’t change up the time of day you run or the location of your run. Keep it simple and the same.

Another thing that is really important to consider in the weeks leading up to the race are your specific goals. Your goals are really important in helping you to develop a race strategy. I like to tell people that they should set 3 goals for the marathon.

Your A goal is the ultimate performance, if everything goes absolutely perfectly on the day – a time that you would be really really happy and content with. You have to dream big as a runner and this A goal is often really lofty, so lofty that you may not feel like sharing it with others. And that is okay. Keep this one close to your chest and let it be the fire in your belly over the last 10k of the race.

Your B goal should be a goal that is still highly motivating to accomplish and something that really isn’t that far off your A goal. It has to be something that you will still really want and will work hard to achieve right to the very end. You might think of it as a back up to your A goal to keep you motivated if you aren’t quite feeling amazing on race day.

Your C goal is maybe a little less ambitious, but still something you can focus on if things really aren’t going all that well on the day. Getting to the finish line is often a success in and of itself, so that is often a goal I recommend people set.

At the end of the day if you’ve trained well, tapered properly, and have set meaningful goals you will have set yourself up for success in the race. Once the gun goes off you just have to trust yourself and have fun!

Dylan sittingDylan Wykes Bio:

I live and train in beautiful Vancouver, BC with my lovely and supportive family by my side. Canadian Olympian (London 2012 – 20th place)
3rd fastest marathon ever in Canadian history (2:10:47)
Multiple time National Champion in track and road racing
Head Coach of Mile2Marathon Coaching Services
Long time Mizuno Elite Athlete and Brand Ambassador







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