What to do to prepare for your marathon (and avoid taper madness….)

What to do to prepare for your marathon (and avoid taper madness….)


Getting close to your target race? Started to taper and getting slightly paranoid? Here’s a few ways you can spend your time constructively preparing for the race. Resting, recovering, and carb loading (if appropriate) have to take priority, but you can also do some mental preparatory work ready for what is to come. Here are some top tips to help you make the most of taper time…


  • Rest
    This has to be a priority. Keep any strength and conditioning work that doesn’t tire you out, but reduce weight sessions (lower intensity, lighter weights and shorten duration) or replacing with stretching, mobilisation and foam rolling. Whilst taper time is a good time to get the things you’ve been putting off during training done, don’t over-exert yourself. Now is not the time to completely renovate the house or dig out the garden. Don’t risk being under recovered or potentially injuring yourself.  This blog explains more why rest and recovery is needed: mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/coaching-tip-tapering-for-a-marathon/


  • Eat well.
    Your body needs to use this time to repair and replenish your glycogen stores. Keep nutrition on point – protein, carbs and healthy fats, don’t change too much, and certainly don’t try and cut back. Your pre, during and post run fuelling will be slightly less as the duration and intensity of your runs decreases, so no need cut back further. As you get nearer the race, consider your carb loading and fuelling strategies carefully. This blog may help you: mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/fuelling-a-marathon-carb-loading-and-race-day-nutrition/


  • Prepare your race kit and check your pre race plan.
    Make sure you know what you need, what you’re wearing etc. Try it out on your runs during the taper period. If you need accommodation or parking, are they sorted?


  • Write down your reasons for running:
    Knowing your why, and being able to access it when you’ve been running a long time and are tired, can really help when it gets tough. There’s a lot more on this available – now might be a great time to access the Coaching Talk mindset videos available in MH Runners Club: www.mhrunnersclub.co.uk


  • Work on mental techniques:
    Hopefully you have been working on mantras and other techniques during your runs to get you through tough patches during the marathon. It really helps if you have practised these during long runs and races in the training period. But it’s not too late if you haven’t, you just may need more reminders to use them during your race as they won’t come automatically. You could try printing them out and making a wrist band with reminders on, or writing them on your arm. There are lots of ideas for in race mindset, but some favourites of my clients include:
    Creating memory miles – some people dedicate every mile or a mile for each of the last six to someone they love. This can help focus your mind and give you motivation to make that mile as good as possible.
    Fine tuning a mantra – whatever mantra you choose (aggressive, relaxing, positive, bossy) make it work for you.
    Reflecting on previous runs – looking back on the runs you nailed previously will help increase your feeling of belief that you CAN do this. Writing them on post it notes and sticking them in visible locations around the house may help.

There are lots of other strategies available, get researching and select a few (not too many, don’t overwhelm yourself) that resonate with you.
Visualise a local run – run the same route over and over locally (3-6 miles is perfect) so that when you have that far to go in the race, you can re-picture your home route in your mind and know you don’t have far to go.
Dismiss negative mental chatter – practice rebuffing any negative thoughts that cross your mind. For example, your brain tells you “I’m too tired….” Your response could be “Of course, its a long race, but you’ve done this before and nothing actually hurts. I’m just going to get to the next water stop and then do a form check”


  • Research the route.
    If you haven’t done this race before, work out where the water stops are and how this coincides with planned gels, look at key points on the race to help you break it down. What notable landmarks etc are there on route? Can you look out for them and check them off? At London I love to tick off Cutty Sark (around 10k), Tower Bridge (around 12 miles) and the Docklands (18-20 miles) and then I know I’m on my way home!


  • Make a new playlist
    Some people don’t enjoy running with music, but if you do, now is the perfect time to make a playlist of your favourite music. You may even want to make a specific playlist for the last few miles.



  • Relax! You’ve done the hard work, the race is the finale, the icing on the cake!


And very briefly, definitely don’t do any of these….!

Don’t worry about phantom injuries and niggles (of course you still need to get real ones checked out);

Don’t have a sports massage the day before;

Don’t do extra exercise to “take your mind off it”;

Don’t panic if running feels hard or go the other way and adjust your marathon pace because you now feel super rested and fit!

And optional extra – don’t drive everyone insane with incessant marathon talk (although this may be unavoidable and is possibly they least damaging!)


There’s probably loads more… what do you do, and what have you done that you now know you shouldn’t do, during the taper? Share below to keep us all busy!


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Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

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