Chillin out maxin', relaxin' all cool

Yesterdays post on my triumph at completing my hardest week, coupled with the realisation that I've still got to run to North Yorkshire before this is over, sparked a lot of comments.

Heated debate is good – it encourages you to challenge your own arguments and either corrects them or makes them stronger.

Or at least it would if it was based on the correct information.

I got my sums wrong.

My last week running up to and including the London Marathon will in fact not be 56 miles, it'll be 48.

Not much difference in the grand scheme of things, but still a deplorable error on my part and I openly chastise my poor arithmetic.

Still, that might sound a lot.

Take out the marathon itself and that's 22 miles when I'm supposed to be taking it easy.

On the face of it Dan made a good point when he quotes someone who's run a 2.17 marathon saying not to run at all that week.

So, why should I go against the advice of someone who clearly knows more than me?*

Well, back in the mists of time when I worked out my schedule I gave a lot of thought to my taper.

Tapering is a balance – it's got to give you enough rest to get you through the big day, but still keep the fitness levels I've been training for months to improve.

Three weeks is a good time to start because the marathon still seems a way off, and going too hard could lead to feeling knackered the following week, and not getting enough benefits from the training that week, which in turn impacts on race week.

Simply steadily decreasing training by 'doing less miles' during the taper could mean I end up losing fitness, and - probably more important for me - having psychological issues.

No jokes please.

I need the confidence of knowing that I've still got the level of fitness needed to get around on the day. I don't want to be worrying I've not done enough, and be tempted to overdo it on an easy run to copmpensate.

Paavo Nurmi once said "mind is everything; muscles pieces of rubber. I am what I am because of my mind." He won 9 olympic golds at distances from 1,500 to 10,000 so knows a bit about what it takes.

So, to keept the confidence, and fitness levels up, I want my taper to reduce the mileage so I'm rested, but keep the overall 'intensity' of the training up.

By interspersing harder efforts into the overall trend of recovery, I hope I'll keep the confidence up, and not lose the fitness I've built, whilst at the same time resting enough for the big day.

The last three weeks of my training do that.

Three weeks out I start with some recovery and easy runs after a hard one on the Sunday before, then some speed work to keep the legs moving, and a long run on the Sunday to keep the confidence up.

Two weeks out and it's more 'easy' speed work to keep the fitness up, three whole days of rest, with a much shorter long run on the Sunday.

The week of the marathon itself starts with a rest, an easy recovery run, then a dress rehearsal to make sure the kits fine. Another rest day is followed by five miles with some speed work to keep the legs loose, then a v gentle four miler the day before mainly to reassure myself that the legs still work.

The overall volume of training looks like:
  • 4 weeks out - 49 miles
  • 3 weeks out - 43 (down 12 per cent on last 'normal' week)
  • 2 weeks out - 32 (down 35 per cent on last 'normal' week)
  • pre race - 22 (down 55 per cent on last 'normal' week)
So a steady reduction, but with some harder, shorter, bits in theer to keep the fitenss up.

I'm not saying this would be for everyone, but it's this kod of thinking thats got me from a v. low level of base fitness to where I am now so I'm optimistic it'll work.

If not, I've no-one to blame but myself!

* ie most people


  1. small matter, but Paavo Nurmi never ran a marathon, and most if not all of his world records from the 1920s have since be beaten. You are right that it is down to what works for each individual, but I still feel you should re-think your last week distance.

  2. A good follow up, food for thought. I think you're right that psychology is important. I think a run the day before is unnecessary though and can only serve to potentially cause a risk or injury and wasting energy needed for 26.2 miles and you should just be on the sofa, eating a massive bowl of pasta. However, this is all just conjecture; I'm not preaching. At the end of the day it's a personnal challenge and however you achieve it is the key!

  3. @Leigh - damn your knowledge of obscure Finnish middle/long distance runners of the early 20th century!

    Still, it's a bloody good quote for me! My problems tend to be mental blocks I get, so I turn to obscure Scandanavian wisemen for reassurance.

    Maybe it's the viking in me?

    @ anon - thanks. I think it's important to get my ideas challenged, so this has been a really valuable couple of posts for me.

    It's not set in stone, so with a bit more thought, and reassessing nearer the time, I might tweak it a bit.

    I also think by the say before I'll be so fed up of pasta my head could explode, which would make all this effort an utter waste of time!