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Easy Over Taper – The Final Steps Towards the Marathon

The Vienna Marathon is coming up, and I am aware of at least 4 runners connected to RCHU (including myself) who are going to be participating. It is a well-spoken thought that a successful marathon is only possible with good training: well thought-out, consistently achieved, and responsive to the body. It is a tall order, but one which ultimately is worth it.

You can be sure these guys managed their training well.

Today’s topic is about over-training. Or more generally, how to manage those final weeks before a ‘trained for’ event, where your body is reaching its long-term limits. This is the time where it feels like everything is sluggish at best, or falling apart at worst. Should you be worried?

One of the key weaknesses of my recent training has been pace. I love running, sometimes too much. I especially love it when the pressure is off on a session and the magic words ‘Easy Run’ are on the calendar. I express this love by... well, not going easy.

March’s Runner’s World (UK) had an article in it which I wished I had read months ago as a reminder that running one’s Easy Runs right is an important skill in itself. Running easy develops the slow-twitch muscle fibres required for other more intense runs, and doing such runs isn’t a waste by any stretch of the imagination. Probably more importantly, easy runs allow one to recover. There is more to it than that, but what I have found is that easy run pace is too singular, too boring, and too fixed and I would find myself slipping out of the same old pace and freeing myself when I really shouldn’t have done! The article suggests something interesting, that is to split the Easy Run into three more levels, creating more mental variety.

Unfortunately, the consequences of doing too much too quickly in your training are potentially calamitous. I recently read a list of the possible symptoms of ‘Over-Training’ as the following...

- A decline in workout performance

- Persistent fatigue (outside training)

- Muscle soreness

- Loss of motivation

- Insomnia

- Assorted mild psychological conditions…

Hardly a cakewalk. But even worse than that, over-training will put your marathon goal time in real jeopardy. A good training plan is designed to have you reach your ‘peak’ just in time for the race, to have your work build up as physical and mental competence. This requires testing your limits and piling on the pressure to generate adaption and improvement, but that hurts!

And that is where the Taper is meant to come in. This is the finely-tuned final stage to your preparation. If you don’t have a personal trainer supporting you it can also be unnerving. All the focus, dedication and time given to a final race, and well before you can get to the start line the plan tells you to back off! Well, that is the right thing to do. And we runners should make the most of the taper to relax, and get our bodies to a state of preparedness that further running could not possibly help us to attain.

What the plan doesn’t tell you with the taper is that you really have done everything you need to do, now, before race day. So in that final week, sit back and think about what you have achieved with your training and tell yourself, “I am ready.”

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