Taper Time?

in Marathon Training

I love how Charlotte is slowly easing into winter.  In Pittsburgh, it went from summer to winter in a week flat.  :)  These cold and crisp mornings better stick around until October 30 (marathon day)!


Pumpkin Loaf Oatmeal


I was craving something seasonal this morning.


Enter… pumpkin loaf oatmeal!


In the mix:


  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/4 can pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • Molasses
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Vanilla




Taper Time?  Not Yet


One of the very best things about maintaining such a detailed blog is that I can look back on Marathon #1 (I ran the Disney Marathon in January) and carefully analyze everything I did and did not to do to make Marathon #2 even better.


It’s hard to separate out the factors that made the last 6 miles of Disney so rough (it was 19 degrees) but I think one major issue might have been that I tapered too long and too much.  A taper is when you start drastically reducing your mileage before a long endurance event to give your muscles time to rest and recover after months of hard training.


Here’s how I tapered for Disney:


  • (Regular Week) T-minus 4 weeks out:  Ran 36.5 miles total with a long run of 22 miles
  • (Taper Begins) T-minus 3 weeks out: Ran 16.1 miles total, of which 7.0 miles were walking miles
  • (Taper) T-minus 2 week out: Ran 16 miles total with a long run of 7.0 miles
  • (Taper) Week of Marathon:  Ran 3 miles + the race


Side note:  my taper was so severe and sudden because I was actually on vacation in England.  I ran as much as I could (well, as much as I wanted to) on vacation but it really impacted my training.  My drastic taper left me feeling unprepared for race day and it really hurt the last six miles.


Hal Hidgon’s “novice” training plans recommend that the taper begin t-minus 3 weeks out, which long runs of 12 miles and 8 miles in the taper weekends leading up to the race. 


Because my training is going so well (no pains or injuries, and I’ve been recovering with lightening speed), I’m going to experiment with beginning my taper at t-minus 2 weeks out (which is this Saturday).  Because my taper is so short, I’m going to forgo the traditional second 20 miler and probably do 18 miles on this Friday.  I spoke to some marathon vets who said the benefits of the extra two miles aren’t worth the potential injury risk this close to the race.  Then, one week out, I’ll run a 12 mile long run.   


It’s fun to look back over my past experiences, talk to more experienced marathoners, research training plans, and tweak my workout schedule to try to find the best combination of pre-marathon mileage that works for me.  In the very least, I’ll have more information to make better decisions for Marathon #3.  Right?  🙂


If you’ve run a marathon, how long did you taper for?  Did the taper period drive you crazy? Did you feel unprepared mentally or physically on race day, or was the break exactly what you needed?



  • Dori October 11, 2010, 9:53 am

    Sounds like you are making smart decisions. I have a feeling this will be an incredible marathon for you!

  • Kelly October 11, 2010, 9:57 am

    That is really cool that you can look back at your training for marathon #1 in such detail- I think it would be hard to remember otherwise 🙂 It sounds like you have a good plan figured out! I am pretty sure you are going to be a lot more ready for marathon #2 anyway just based on how your training is going so far!

  • Exercise and Eat October 11, 2010, 9:58 am

    I’ve never had the balls to run a marathon – but I know you’ll rock this one!

  • Katie October 11, 2010, 9:58 am

    I’m racing next Saturday. I did 30 miles last week will probably just run a 2 4s and 6 this week. I probably won’t do much more aim to end the week including the marathon at 40 miles. I don’t really taper it drives me too crazy and my sanity is not worth it. My long runs were 2 weeks out 20 miles, then 10 yesterday. I knew a 3 week taper wouldn’t be conducive to a good race for me.

  • Holly @ couchpotatoathlete October 11, 2010, 10:04 am

    I followed HH novice plan for my marathon this past year — I felt prepared for race day (well, I THINK I felt prepared!).

    The taper did drive me crazy — only because it was such a change from running so much to going back to “easier” runs. Next time (if I run another marathon) I will try to enjoy the taper period.

  • Kate @ Spoonful of Vigor October 11, 2010, 10:06 am

    With all the marathon buzz going around, I’ve decided I really, really want to do one. I’m running my first half this upcoming weekend and then my plan is to put together a training plan for a full in May. Reading yours and others’ experiences training for such a big event is so helpful in thinking about what may and may not work well for me. Thank you!

  • grocery goddess jen October 11, 2010, 10:06 am

    I’ve never run a full marathon, only a half, and I guess I just did one long run (12 miles) two weeks before, and tapered after that. I think it’s so cool you can look back over exactly what you did last night. I bet your experience this time will be a million times better than last time – no vacation and hopefully no freezing temperatures!

  • the veg meg October 11, 2010, 10:07 am

    You’re going to do AMAZING! And SO AM I (on a much smaller scale, of course) even though I’ve got less than three weeks to train and haven’t run (or exercised, at all) in at least the last two weeks.

  • Camille October 11, 2010, 10:20 am

    I ran my second marathon this weekend and unfortunately I found I was not prepared at all. I guess that is one great thing about having 2 races under my belt is that I can look back and see how things need to be changed.

  • Amanda (Eating Up) October 11, 2010, 10:24 am

    No marathons for me yet! I thought you might find this interesting, though. Look what job is featured on the “One Day, One Job” site today: http://www.onedayonejob.com/jobs/girls-on-the-run/ 🙂

  • Wei-Wei October 11, 2010, 10:32 am

    I thought you were going to bake the oatmeal into a loaf! That would have been strange. But good. 😛 I wish you good luck on your marathon and I’m sorry I have no advice to give you… :S

  • Kelly October 11, 2010, 10:32 am

    I’ve actually been having some questions about tapering also, I’m only doing a half, but right now my plan has me running 24 miles the week before and an 11 mile long run and 27 the week of the race.

  • Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg October 11, 2010, 10:36 am

    Hey now, we’re actually having a really slow, easy fall up here in PA too 🙂

  • Stacey October 11, 2010, 10:36 am

    I try not to think of the tapering period! I haven’t run a marathon YET(!) but I know that when I trained for my half-marathons I just tried to do what felt right. Long distance runs didn’t seem like a good idea a week before the race, so I would do one two weeks before the race and it didn’t affect me on race day! I hope you find something that works for you and I’m glad you had a safe trip back from NY 😀

  • Jasmine @ Eat Move Write October 11, 2010, 10:37 am

    It can go to winter to summer and back again here in SD. So strange. I’m thinking oats this morning too.

  • Julie October 11, 2010, 10:37 am

    Girl, you should be in the ‘burgh this fall, it has been gorgeous. I was out enjoying the 75 and sunny weather in Schenley Park yesterday 🙂

  • Beth @ DiningAndDishing October 11, 2010, 10:39 am

    I tapered leading up to my half marathon while my sis (who ran with me) did not. She kicked my butt on race day and I wonder if that little difference didn’t have something to do with it!

  • claire October 11, 2010, 10:50 am

    I love reading your posts about running and what you’ve learned about what does and doesn’t seem to work with you! I love running dialogue!

  • Tabitha (From Single to Married) October 11, 2010, 11:00 am

    I’m jealous – we still have some summer weather and I’m SO ready for some cool mornings!

  • Haleigh October 11, 2010, 11:01 am

    It’s still so hot in Charlotte! I can’t wait until it finally cools down. I’m not really a runner but I do enjoy a quick 2 mile run when the weather is clean and crisp. I love to hear about your insight into being a runner, I don’t really run, so I enjoy reading about your experiences.

  • Corey - The Runners Cookie October 11, 2010, 11:03 am

    3 weeks prior I do 20-21 miles, and the taper begins after that. 2 weeks prior I still do some speed work and the long run is 12-13. 1 week prior I would not do more than 8 as my long run. The overall mileage and speed work gradually decrease over that 3 week period. I always jog a bit the 3rd and 2nd day before (otherwise I am crazy stiff) and just do a little walking 1 day before. That’s what works for me! It’s great to learn from your first marathon and change things up….that’s the only way to improve!

  • Erin October 11, 2010, 11:11 am

    I developed a knee injury after my 20 miler 3 weeks out from the marathon so my taper was also a drastic reduction in mileage. I don’t know if it was that or the weather that impacted my race but I do know I didn’t run the race I had trained for. I wish I could have just run all 26.2 on the day I ran my 20. I think I run better when I’m running the higher mileage.

  • lauren October 11, 2010, 11:11 am

    I’m running my first in December, but my taper is (for long runs):
    3 weeks out – 20
    2 weeks out – 12
    1 week out – 8

  • Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine October 11, 2010, 11:17 am

    This is interesting to read because for my last half I didn’t seriously taper…just kind of took it easy the last week! I’m following a Higdon plan this time around though, so I’ll be tapering in a few weeks too!

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey October 11, 2010, 11:23 am

    That oatmeal looks awesome! I think your taper will go just fine!

  • Tracy October 11, 2010, 11:30 am

    Pittsburgh is having an actual Autumn this year 🙂

    I found that running my last 20 miler 2.5 weeks prior to the marathon worked best for me. It’s not always possible though, since that’s usually a Wednesday. If I did my last 20 three weeks out, I would do a 15 two weeks out, then a 10 one week out. If I did my last 20 two weeks out, I would do probably 12-13 one week out (similar to what you plan). I never had much taper madness… but was always so worried about randomly getting injured.

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) October 11, 2010, 11:47 am

    It is still pretty hot here in Atlanta! Your oats look delicious! I have been enjoying pumpkin and buttercup squash oats. It is totally getting me in the mood for fall!

  • Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun October 11, 2010, 11:50 am

    I love learning and hearing about all the ins and outs of running. I know I look forward to picking it back up again in some form after this baby. I don’t ever foresee myself being a marathoner because I enjoy so many other workouts, but really love the challenge of a good run.

  • Claire (Low Impact Fashionista) October 11, 2010, 12:11 pm

    I love the taper period! It’s like a nice restful massage for my entire body before I ask it to do something amazing for me!

  • Jamie @ Food in Real Life October 11, 2010, 12:21 pm

    I’ve never trained for a marathon, but it sounds to me like you are doing the right thing. You’re making educated and sensible decisions based on research, prior experience and how your body feels. Can’t go wrong there.

  • hippierunner October 11, 2010, 12:32 pm

    I don’t think I really tapered too much. I can’t remember anyways but maybe because I was simultaneously on the track and x-country teams as well as marathon training, I never really got a chance to taper. I think I maybe did like the last long run (18/22) about a month before the marathon. That’s so cool that you can look back and make changes to improve for this time!

  • Natalia - a side of simple October 11, 2010, 12:35 pm

    Thanks so much for really documenting your training. I’m not running a race now but it really helps in general to see your plans and experiences and how it all works for you.

  • Lisa October 11, 2010, 1:03 pm

    When I did Hood To Coast this summer my taper was only 1 week. I probably should have done a 2 week taper but it was something that was hard to train for…not like a marathon or other kind of race!

  • Katie (Life... Discombobulated) October 11, 2010, 1:03 pm

    I’ve never run a full marathon, but have done 3 halves. In my experience, two weeks of REAL taper are too much for me on the half. I want to have done a long-ish run closer to race day and 3 weeks out just doesn’t mentally cut it for me. I have found that running 10-12+ 3 weeks before the race, 8-10 two weeks before, and 6-8 with a real week of rest and some shorter runs plus yoga during the week leading up to the race are best for me mentally and physically. While this is absolutely different for different people (and OBVIOUSLY different distances), I want to show up on race morning feeling like I’ve got energy in the tank and am chomping at the bit to R-U-N. I DON’T want to feel like I’ve lazed around the past two weeks and feel bloated and unenergetic. Lesson learned!

  • Katie (Life... Discombobulated) October 11, 2010, 1:05 pm

    p.s. Reading about your training has really made me wish I were doing a fall race, but has also majorly inspired me to keep my distances up! Thanks!!!! 🙂

  • Mary @ Bites and Bliss October 11, 2010, 1:37 pm

    I definitely love it when Fall/Spring is longer (or actually exists!) It’s much better than going from two extremes in a few weeks.

  • Joanne October 11, 2010, 1:37 pm

    My taper was about a week and a half. The Wed. before the marathon, I ran my last long run of 18 miles. But those last 3 weeks, I was getting a little hamstring pain so I reduced the weekly mileage in the last 3 weeks. I ran a half marathon 2 weekends before my marathon which was great – no taper for that. I needed it to build confidence regarding my speed.

  • Chris October 11, 2010, 1:50 pm

    While I have never done a marathon (next year!) I have done lots of halves and a few 70.3 Ironman triathlons. Taper is important for endurance athletes. However there are two rules to tapering a) the longer the event the longer the taper and b) the fitter the athlete the longer the taper. Keep those in mind. When I was training for my last 70.3 my taper was 3 weeks long, but that was way too long. It slid me into a huge funk where I lost my appetite, slept over 12 hours a day, and became depressed and irritable. This apparently is normal according to my coach. Keep that in mind as you taper. Do not reduce the millage drastically but only slightly each week and keep the intensity up (like tempo runs, race pace workouts, and intervals) to keep your legs aware of the proper pace. Good luck! You are going to do great!

  • Brittany October 11, 2010, 1:56 pm

    My taper is typically 2-3 weeks. I ran my best marathon so far on 10/3 (PR by 13 minutes + no major slowdown at mile 20 + felt great immediately after the race AND the next day) by implementing this taper strategy:

    3 weeks out: 50 mpw; long run = 20 miles
    2 weeks out: 40 mpw; long run = 13 miles
    1 week out: 30 mpw; long run = 8 miles
    Week of race: 6 mi. Mon.; 5 mi. Wed.; 4 mi. Sat; 26.2 Sun.!

    Good luck!

  • Maryea @ Happy Healthy Mama October 11, 2010, 2:15 pm

    I have never run a full marathon, but I did run track in college (sprints:-)) The taper period of training always provided a much-needed break from the more mileage-heavy beginning and mid-season training. I remember feeling so fresh and FAST on the big race day as a result of the taper.

  • Amber K October 11, 2010, 2:43 pm

    That is really neat that you can look back at your previous marathon to compare. I hope you find a tapering method that’ll work best for you!

  • Sarah October 11, 2010, 3:19 pm

    I’ve been training with Team in Training and my marathon (Nike Women’s Marathon) is on Sunday. Our long runs have been 17, 13, 6, marathon. I did an additional 10 Turkey Trot today too – my legs feel like they are ready to run 26.2 (or at least try to)!

  • Teri [a foodie stays fit] October 11, 2010, 3:49 pm

    I tapered for 3 weeks and I didn’t go crazy like I expected. I felt strong and ready on raceday!

  • rebecca lustig October 11, 2010, 4:22 pm

    pittsburgh has a nice fall….for about a week….. (like you said). i definitely do not miss the sun to rain swtich up every other day! haha

  • Ellen @FirednFabulous October 11, 2010, 4:43 pm

    Sounds like you’re doing your research! It’s funny, a lot of serious runners don’t seem to like tapering, but I’m pretty sure I’d love it 😉

  • Sassy Molassy October 11, 2010, 5:47 pm

    I like to taper for two weeks with my last 20 miler being three weeks prior to race day. Hal does know his stuff! I just raced the Portland Marathon yesterday! So glad to be done with it and relaxing today. Just got a massage! Good luck with the taper.

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin October 11, 2010, 6:09 pm

    It must be so helpful to be able to look back on your previous races and learn from them! I’m sure you’re going to rock this marathon! 😀

  • Mary (What's Cookin' with Mary) October 11, 2010, 7:06 pm

    Love the purple mums and pumpkins!!! I have that same flower on my front step. She’s been around since last fall and FILLED with buds ready to pop. 😉

  • maria @ Chasing the Now October 11, 2010, 7:08 pm

    I think your taper idea sounds good for someone who has as much racing experience as you. Only you can know what works for your body.

  • Heather October 11, 2010, 7:09 pm

    When I did Goofy’s challenge, I tapered for 2 weeks. With the holidays and year-end stuff at work, I didn’t have a chance to get restless. This Sunday I am doing a half marathon (it will be my second one in a month), so I am in taper this week- boy does my body need this! Light runs and lots of sleep 🙂

  • Wendy Irene (Give Love Create Happiness) October 11, 2010, 7:10 pm

    Love the 1st and 4th pictures Caitlin!

  • Maribeth October 11, 2010, 7:13 pm

    i did hal hidgen’s novice training when i ran the thunder road marathon last year, and i totally understand mentally and physically not feeling ready for the race while tapering. the tapering ended up being perfect for the what i wanted to do.

  • Gracie (complicated day) October 11, 2010, 7:34 pm

    My last marathon I, too, only tapered 2 weeks. It worked just fine for me.

  • Julie October 11, 2010, 7:37 pm

    I follow the 3-week taper: 20, 12, (taper) 20, 12, and 8. I think it’s just enough time to get any pain/kinks out of my system before the race. If you really make that 12-miler count, then you’re good.

  • Theodora October 11, 2010, 8:30 pm

    Well, actually, I ran my first marathon yesterday! 🙂 For my taper, I did 20, a half marathon (wanted to see my pace) and then 5.5 (was supposed to do 8 but too tired.) Because it was my first, most of the taper period after 13.1 was spent freaking out. I was wondering why I was so hungry and noticing every phantom pain. When I got to the start line yesterday, I felt totally physically and mentally prepared, though, so I guess it worked!!!

  • Cate October 11, 2010, 8:47 pm

    My fifth marathon was my best by FAR and I did a 3 week taper. My last 3 long runs were 20, 8, and 12 (the 8 was supposed to be 16 but my foot was bothering me). I ALWAYS feel like crap the last couple weeks before the race.

  • kyla October 11, 2010, 9:33 pm

    I just ran my first marathon yesterday! Chicago’s on 10-10-10. I also followed good ol’ Hal’s program and the taper period left me a little restless and I was worried I was not going to be prepared. However I ran it in 4:22:11 and I think the taper period was exactly what I needed. Also, I think the last 6.2 miles are just hard. My roughest point was def. 20-23 and that last .2 miles was the longest of my life. So I don’t think it’s a matter of you being unprepared, it’s just rough!

  • Devon @Fast Foodie October 11, 2010, 10:10 pm

    I usually implement a 90-70-30 taper. That is 90%, 70%, 30% in the three weeks before a race. That way I have stepped back ever so slightly in the first of three weeks, then a bit more and finally a nice easy week. I definitely do high quality fast stuff during taper. Mileage down, intensity the same or even up. (So it really is more of a two week true taper). I do my last long run 2 weeks out from race day.

    Sometimes I really enjoy taper. Since I run a lot, I suddenly have a bunch of free time. However that can let in lots of doubts too. If I am feeling slow, tired and cranky, I know I am right on target to do great. Tapering has worked well for me in this manner. I am racing on Saturday, so I am pretty stoked!

  • giordin October 13, 2010, 2:55 pm

    I’m so glad you posted on this! I’m running my second marathon this coming Sunday. I’m doing a Team in Training schedule, which has been amazing so far, but since I’ve been tapering, I’ve started to worry that I might be “over-recovering”. We had a 3 week taper (20, 12, 6) and I have to say, I feel like I’m losing fitness. I felt great on my 12-miler, but since then I’ve been feeling sluggish and not particularly strong.

    It’s helpful to read other comments about feeling slow and tired leading up to a great race, so I sure hope that’s the case! If nothing else, this long taper sure does play mind games!

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