Now that there are only a few weeks until race day, you can breathe a sigh of relief: Nearly all of the hard training is over. Finally, you can rest a little. But don't think it'll be easy. With the reduction in mileage, you'll have lots of energy to burn. Here are some tricks to sharpen up your body and keep your mind focused.
The taper typically starts three weeks before the marathon. You should reduce your mileage by about 30 per cent each week. So if you were running 100 kilometres a week, turn that down to 65 to 70 this week, then about 50 next week. For interval training, now is the time to cement marathon pace in your brain and sharpen up your stride. Since you won't be taxing your legs on long runs, you are likely to find some spring in your step in the second week of the taper.
Practise different paces with a "ladder" workout, taking a two-minute break after each running interval. Start with a mile (1,600 metres) at marathon race pace, followed by 1,200 metres a tad faster, then 800 metres a bit faster still, then 400 metres even faster but focusing on relaxed form. You should not be full-on sprinting for any of these intervals.
Top off the workout with 4x200-metre fluid accelerations; it should feel as though you're floating with fast leg turnover. The following week, start with 1,200 metres at marathon race pace and continue with 800m/400m /200m/200m. You may notice faster times without an increase in effort.
In the days leading up to the race, you need to rest more than you need to run. Short, 5- to 8-kilometre easy runs with a few accelerations at the end are all you should do. Keep your mind busy with distractions you've been forgoing lately, like books, movies and time with loved ones.
When you think of the race, visualize success without putting any pressure on expectations. Just know that you've done the work and you'll have a good day out there.
Nicole Stevenson is a running coach and the ninth-fastest female marathon runner in Canadian history. She is a long-time competitor in the Canada Running Series.