Q&A With Max Curle – The Marathon Taper!

10th April 2018 Max Curle

The countdown is on to London, and you are less than 2 week away. If you haven’t already, you should be thinking about how you’re going to manage your tired limbs through the next couple of weeks to make sure you are fresh and ready to run well on race day!

The The Altitude Centre caught up with me, their resident Endurance Coach, to ask me a few questions about tapering for marathons, and get a few top tips to help you get it right!

The Altitude Centre: Tapering is a key part in any marathon runners training programme. How important is it to taper for a marathon to optimise performance on race day?

Max Curle: The taper is a vital part of any training plan. Over the final few weeks training volume and intensity would be at it’s highest. The taper allows the body to recover both physically and mentally; meaning the body and mind will be fresh and rearing to go on race morning.

TAC: So we’ve established tapering is definitely something to do. As a general guide, how long prior to race day should you start to taper?

MC: With athletes I coach I tend to encourage a 2-week taper, we bring the intensity and volume of training down, whilst keeping active. Depending on the experience of the athlete we will agree that the last long run is 3 weeks prior to race day.

TAC: So we’re tapering from 2 weeks out, with our last long run 3 weeks before race day. Is there a set amount we should reduce our running miles by during the taper?

MC: I always encourage a gradual taper, perhaps only running twice a week for no more than an hour at a time. Some athletes are harder to convince on this than others, I like to remind them that the hard work (should) be done already, and very little is to be gained in this time, but a lot could be lost!

TAC: Would these runs mainly be steady state, or interval based?

MC: I would suggest a very steady run, (Heart Rate Zone 2). I would avoid intervals as stress on the muscles and joints should be avoided. It could be opportunities to try some cross training, a cycle or a swim for example. But do avoid activates where contact and high impact is involved as an injury this close to race day could result in a DNS.

TAC: When would be the last day you’d recommend running, prior to the race?

MC: 4 days out would be the ideal for a first time marathon runner. In those remaining three days I would encourage the athlete to keep active, by walking and stretching. Perhaps have a massage.

TAC: What other top tips do you have for tapering?

MC: The taper can be a tricky time for some athletes as you may feel you are losing fitness by doing less training than you have been used to, I would encourage athletes to do some light sessions, keep loose by stretching.

The use of the POD at the Altitude Centre is an excellent way to keep the Cardio-vascular fitness levels high, but without putting any stress on the muscles and joints.

TAC: Carb-loading is often something discussed around marathon time. What would be your recommendations regarding dietary requirements in the final days?

MC: The chances are over the last few weeks as training volume has been high you would of naturally been eating more calories in order to fuel and recover from those long runs.

However, during the final week before the marathon, I would advice you to cut back on the amount of CHOs from Sunday – Wednesday, try to get as much of your calories from protein and healthy fats.

Thursday – Sunday morning (race day), reintroduce CHO at the level you were eating them at during the heavier weeks of training.

By cutting the CHOs out for a few day, when they are reintroduced the body will absorb them and hold on to them, meaning they are available as your primary source of energy during the marathon.

Your fluid intake should be a little higher than normal also; it is a little crude but try and keep an eye on the colour of your urine, the clearer the better.

The night before, eat your favourite CHO meal, for me it is always Tomato Pasta with Chicken. This is tried and tested for me, so hold no surprises. Avoid fatty foods, very high amounts of protein, high fibre foods, as well as anything too spicy, this could cause discomfort during the marathon.

A small CHO breakfast before the race is important, but ensure you have enough time to properly digest it before your start time.

TAC: If you could give our runners one last piece of advice before race day, what would it

MC: Respect the marathon, it is a long way! Especially for those first timers! However if you have put the hard work in over the last few months and have given the taper and your nutrition some thought. You will have one of the most amazing experiences there is. Enjoy it.

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