Coaching Tip – Tapering for a Marathon

Back in 2020 I wrote a blog post on tapering for your marathon. For this week’s coaching tip, I bring back the key points of this article and remind you of the importance of recovering completely before you embark on 26.2 miles.


What is tapering?
-Tapering is reducing your training before your target race, giving your body a chance to recover from accumulated fatigue and reach a peak in performance. The taper should be 2-3 weeks in length, meaning you don’t lose fitness, but go into your target race fresh and full of energy. Although a 3 week taper does mean you may lose a little fitness, you won’t notice it, and this is outweighed by the recovery you should feel. However, if your training season has been interrupted or shortened by injury etc. you may want to consider a 2 week taper (details below).
During the taper, you want to try and keep frequency of your runs the same (if you run 4 times a week, keep to that), and keep a little intensity (speed). However, you will drop some of the speedwork and reduce the mileage to allow the recovery to take place. You should also include a little bit of marathon pace work in runs during the taper, to make neuromuscular connections – get your brain used to telling your legs to run at that pace.

Planning a 3 week taper
– 3 weeks out, mileage should be around 65% of your previous (highest) week. The long run will be between 14 miles (less experienced runners), and 16 miles (for more experienced runners). Use this opportunity to practice pre-race routines like fuelling and clothing.
– 2 weeks out: your mileage should be roughly half of your longest week, and long run will vary from 8-12 miles depending on experience.
– 1 week out: down to 25% of the mileage you were at. Take another rest day or two (depending on your current frequency) and include marathon pace work. Drop any extra exercise such as gym visits or cross training at this point. An example last week schedule is on the original blog:


Considering a 2 week taper
If your training hasn’t gone to plan (e.g. reduced training for injury or illness), and you want more time to build fitness and / or confidence, a 2 week “aggressive” taper is worth considering. To do this:
– Keep your training high 3 weeks out, peaking with a long run.
– Drop back to 50% of the mileage 2 weeks out, and follow the pattern above for the final week
– Be careful that this allows you enough time to recover properly.

As you start the taper, you may worry that you haven’t trained enough, haven’t hit paces on all your runs, etc. maranoia (the well-known paranoia of marathon training) will probably kick in. However, the old adage that it is better to go into a race slightly under trained than overtrained and tired is very true, so stick to your guns, take time to recover, and reach the start line as fresh as a daisy and ready to race! Good luck!


Key resources:
Full blog post on How to Taper can be found here:
MH Runners Club webinar on Preparing for your marathon: Tapering, racing and recovery, where tapering and a lot of other useful topics are discussed at length, can be accessed in MH Runners Club (


Other useful blog posts include:
Carb loading and race day nutrition:
How to determine your marathon race pace:
Building mental toughness:


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Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community