Tapering – the unrocky road to Dublin Marathon 2012

One last 20 miler? Just say no! (Photo: markscds.blogspot.com)

Yawn. There are just under three weeks to go to the 2012 Dublin Marathon. I would be getting all excited and pumped up, but I’m busy tapering – the technical term for cutting down on your training and saving your energy in the build-up to race day.

Doing nothing is surprisingly tough. One symptom of maranoia is the mad urge, a fortnight before your marathon, to throw in extra sprints or squeeze out one more 18-mile long run like some frenzied cramming session the night before an exam.

It’s hard to accept that you’ve done as much as you can, and any more is only detrimental. But in truth, the training you’ve done up to now is your lot for the marathon. Between now and race day you should just aim to keep ticking over and well conditioned without depleting your reserves or needing extra recovery.

For last year’s Dublin Marathon I overtrained and was still putting in hard mileage ten days before the race – I suffered for it on the big day. Lesson duly learnt, for the Paris Marathon in April I started my taper three weeks before the marathon, and it made a huge difference to my race-day performance.

In taper mode, I’ve cut out the long runs and speed sessions, and I’ll shorten my other runs too. And from now on, a ‘run’ is a light trot to loosen out the legs. This week, the first of my taper, I’ll do five 5-mile runs for a total of 25 miles – down from 35 last week and 40 the week before. Next week it’ll be five 4-mile runs, and then in the week leading up to the marathon I’ll do a three-mile run, a two-mile run and one very slow shuffling mile on the Saturday and Sunday before the race on the Bank Holiday Monday.

Along with the running, or lack thereof, I spend my taper catching up on my sleep and hydration. With no long run next Saturday morning I’ll profit by having a lie-in, and one on Sunday morning too. I’ll make sure that I take in plenty of water every day, without flooding the engine.

As my weekday evening runs are now shorter, I won’t know myself with all this free time. An essential part of the taper kit is a good pile of DVDs. I’ve borrowed boxed sets of The Wire (for substantial brain-viewing) and The Persuaders (for frothy fun plus the second-greatest TV theme ever, after this), and also have Rear Window, Angels With Dirty Faces and The Last Picture Show ready for viewing – all supplemented by football on TV.

Here’s a suitably laidback taper anthem for anyone still “running everywhere at such a speed / ‘Til they find there’s no need”:

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