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Training | Taper Time

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And just like that, the longest run of my marathon training is now behind me: 20 miles on a sunny Saturday before Easter. I combined two of my favorite Bremen routes into one long run — first a long 10-mile loop around the Bürgerpark, Stadtwald, and Unisee, then a quick stop at home to pick up a new water bottle and more fuel, and finally another 10-mile loop along the Weser river, Werdersee, and Osterdeich before making my way home. Anytime I felt overwhelmed by the distance ahead of me, I forced myself only to think of the miles until my next intake of fuel, so that I never had more than four miles on my mind at a time. For some strange reason, my body always falls for that trick and before I knew it, I was done with three-and-a-half hours of running!

I can actually hardly believe that I’ve made it this far in my training. If you remember, I had some serious doubts — which is why I avoided the marathon distance for so long even though I have more than a dozen half marathons to my name. And I kind of don’t want to jinx it by talking about how smoothly everything has gone so far. (I’m still reminded of a friend who got appendicitis the week before the NYC Marathon — really, anything can happen!)

The next three weeks before the marathon are all about the taper — meaning that I keep on training, but my mileage gets gradually reduced in order to give my body some time to recover before the big race. This time is known to induce the “taper crazies” among some runners — What do I do with all my time now? What if I lose all my fitness before the race? Did I train enough? — but I *live* for the taper. It’s finally a chance to feel good about all the miles I stored up in my training bank, get some rest, and get my body ready to push itself to the limits. I hope that’s the case this time around too!

Of course I’m a bit anxious about discovering just how much harder 26.2 miles is than 20, but I’m glad I’ve finally reached a point where I *know* I’m capable of pulling myself over that finish line on April 17th.

Until then, wish me luck with staying calm and if you have any tips or tricks for a successful marathon, please send them my way!


  1. Emily says:

    I’m pressing my thumbs for you! 20 miles is an amazing accomplishment. I agree – breaking miles into smaller chunks always helps me. One of my favorite measurements is I’m halfway to the halfway point (because you know saying I’m a quarter of the way isn’t nearly as exciting as halfway! :) ). You’ve got this!

  2. Uncle Clyde says:

    Two things come to mind:

    1. The carbohydrate loading regimin during the prior week is a good idea, although I would avoid being too aggressive with the no/low carbs and heavy workouts the first half of the sequence. Even though I have only attempted two marathons before my first of five knee operations put a kibosh to more, I have used the technique for the Hood to Coast Relay with good results, especially during the second and third legs.

    2. Drink water at every aid station, especially the early ones when your mind says that you don’t need any water yet. You can sweat twice as much fluid as your stomach can drain so if you continue to run after your brain gets the message, you may not be able to hydrate sufficiently after then. By now you probably know how to hydrate on the run. I predate camel backs plus the idea of dragging my water with me every step just seems wrong anyway. I see nothing wrong with walking at the water station and drinking from the cup properly and then return to running. If your race offers water in cups with lids and straws, that might work well also. I remember seeing people with their own straws stuck in waist and arm bands so that they could shorten the walking part as much as possible if the race didn’t supply them or if they ran out.

    Anyway, I know you will do fine. Try not to overstride, get off your heels and get onto the balls of your foot as much as you can.

    • Dear Uncle Clyde, thank so much for your advice. I will definitely take it to heart, especially regarding the hydration. My plan is to walk through the water stops because otherwise I just can’t get any liquid down properly — I’ve never heard of using straws (apparently it hasn’t caught on over here yet), but I’m intrigued! :)

  3. Vanessa says:

    It’ll be great! I really enjoyed the Hamburg marathon. If the crowd is anything like when I ran a couple years ago, then their energy and encouragement will carry you right along. And if you managed 20 miles so well, 6 more miles is long, but completely doable. Have fun!

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