Congratulations! Almost all of you, other than the most experienced distance runners, have completed your longest training run. Now it's time to taper.
Work smarter, not harder.
Tapering allows your body to recover - this is critical to a healthy, successful marathon. Your muscles and immune system need to heal and strengthen during these weeks to avoid or recover from injury and illness. Despite variability in specific recommendations, researchers agree that starting your taper at this time is most effective (again, other than for elite runners, who sometimes start tapering next week.)
Stick to your program.
Some runners welcome the reduced mileage; others crave the physical and emotional response we get from high mileage. Resist the temptation to continue at last week's level. Reduce your mileage by at least 20 percent. You will not become deconditioned, and you will avoid accumulated fatigue.
Make any necessary changes now.
If you plan to change gear, particularly sneakers or your fuel plan (hydration, gels/gus/blocks) prior to or during the run, start now. You want ample time to practice any changes to help maximize your performance and to avoid injuries and distractions during the run.
Envision yourself at various spots along the course running strong and relaxed. Create a mental image of yourself approaching and crossing the finish line, with all of the amazing sensations you will experience within yourself, as well as the sounds and sights that will surround you.
Most of us course through many emotional states during the next few weeks. You may feel excited and proud. But you may also succumb to fears and anxieties - such as "I didn't train enough", or "I'm going to get out of shape." Remember, TAPERING IS TRAINING. You are improving, not jeopardizing, your fitness.
Enjoy the next three weeks. See you on the course!