Marathon Taper Sessions

7 speed sessions to stop the taper tantrums!

Training for a marathon involves months of hard work, gruelling training sessions and tough negotiations trying to fit everything in. But in the last few weeks, it’s important to take your foot off the pedal, heal any muscle damage and rebuild hormone and muscle glycogen levels. In the last three weeks out from your race, you shouldn’t be running more than three quarters of your highest-volume week. Two weeks out from your race, you shouldn’t be running more than half of your highest volume. And a week out, you should keep all runs short and sweet.

You’d think it would come as a relief to cut back on your training but, strangely, many find the taper period leaves them feeling restless, achy, agitated and lazy. Thankfully, there is a solution: speed work. While you won’t build any fitness in the last few weeks, some short sharp speed sessions are a great way to spend your extra time and energy, giving you that much-needed kick of endorphins, while stopping you feeling stiff and sluggish! Here’s seven speed sessions to stop the taper tantrums – without overdoing it:

1. Wind-up run of 10/10/10

This is ten minutes easy, then ten minutes steady, then ten minutes at your threshold effort. Gradually progress the pace of the run and ensure that there is a definite pace change on each minute section. Sustain the last ten minutes at an even effort.

2. 30-minute out-and-back run

Run out for 15 minutes at a steady pace/effort, then turn and run the same route back at a quicker pace, aiming to get back to where you started a couple of minutes’ quicker. Aim to get back in 13 minutes and try to keep this session on a flat road.

3. Bread and butter threshold session

Five-minute warm-up, then 4 x 5 minutes at threshold effort (60-second jog recovery in-between the blocks), followed by a gentle two-minute warm-down. Aim for the blocks to be run at threshold, i.e an effort of eight to eight and a half out of ten or a few words answer pace. You should be working hard but still in control. The shorter recoveries make this session more challenging.

4. 30-minute flip-over session

Three minutes steady/three minutes at threshold or tempo continuously for 30 minutes. This session is never super-fast and never super-slow. Get into a nice rhythm of running steady for three minutes, then a little faster, then back to steady for three minutes then a little faster again, and so on.

5. 5K intense session

Five-minute warm-up, then five minutes at threshold, then 5 x 2 minutes faster than your 5K pace. Take a two-minute jog recovery in-between the hard two-minute blocks. Ensure you work very hard. Each two-minute effort should feel like the last 1K of a hard 5K race.

6. Continuous hills

Ten-minute warm-up, then 20 minutes of continuous hills. The hill should be roughly a ten percent gradient. You run up for 45-60 seconds at threshold effort, turn and run down still at threshold effort, then turn and run up again and keep this going continuously for 20 minutes at least. This is not hill sprinting and the effort should be eight to eight and a half out of ten (threshold) and consistent. Keep the pace going on the downhill and refrain from using it as a recovery.

7. Speed session

Ten-minute warm-up, then 10 x 1 minute hard/1 minute easy. A simple way to keep in touch with pace and speed.

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