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Monday, September 19, 2011

Law 13: Rest Before a Big Race

Did you know that benefits of tapering before a marathon were introduced to recreational running community only about 20 years ago? In the 90s more and more experienced coaches started sharing their knowledge with increasing number of recreational marathon runners and finally the word got out: take a rest before a race. 
Even until the early 60s, the majority of elite marathon runners believed that training hard till the last day would benefit their performance on a competition day. It was quite common to go for a fast 20K+ long-run even a day before a race.  Importance of rest before competition was noticed sporadically on some occasions, one notable example, later named Zatopek Phenomenon, occurred before 1950 European Games. Emil Zatopek trained very intensively, but got sick and had to be hospitalized for two weeks. He was released 2 days before competing in 10,000 m which he won by a full lap. A few days later he won 5,000 m by 23 seconds. His convincing success was attributed to the enforced rest in a hospital prior to the games.
Nowadays, almost every marathon training book has a chapter about tapering.  I listed some key points Hal Higdon offers in his book: Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide
  • Taper is mentally difficult.  Doing nothing is not easy after several weeks of intensive training; use this time to catch-up on things that were put on a back burner during your training.
  • Cut total mileage. For the last 2 to 3 weeks total mileage doesn’t count , it may hinder your performance. A simple way to reduce mileage is to reduce number of times you run by eliminating easy days
    • 3 weeks before a race reduce mileage to 75%
    • 2 weeks before a race reduce mileage to 50%
    • 1 week before a race reduce mileage to 25%
  • Cut distance not intensity. Reducing distance doesn’t mean you need to slow down. You need to train at or near race pace on your tempo runs and interval training.
  • Cut the lifting. Stop weight lifting to reduce chance of injury.
  • Cut back on calories. Watch out what you eat, when you’re running less you’re also burning fewer calories.
  • Change Diet. Start carbo-loading 7 days in advance of the race.
  • Skip Cross-Training. Don’t cross train in the last week  prior to the race.
Hopefully, by following these simple rules you’ll increase your chances of reaching your ecstatic goal in coming races in Victoria, Chicago, Lake Garda, Portland, New York or Sacramento.

Run Strong!

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