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Advice for Tapering and Marathon Racing


Updated June 30, 2014

Runners in NYC marathon
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Marathon Tapering

The tapering period is a critical part of your marathon training. During the last couple of weeks of your training, it's important that you taper, or cut back your mileage, to give your body and mind a chance to rest, recover and prepare for your marathon. Follow these general tapering guidelines for the two-week period before your marathon.

Marathon Day Preparations

The days leading up to marathon day can be anxiety-ridden. If your marathon is out of town, it's important to start packing early, so you make sure you don't forget anything. Follow this marathon packing list for a guide to everything you need. Packing early and starting to get everything ready will help ease some of your anxiety.

Many marathon runners have trouble sleeping the night before their race. Try not to stress about it -- as long as you get decent sleep in the week leading up to your marathon, and especially two nights before the race, you'll be well-rested for the race. If you have pre-race insomnia, lay in bed and force yourself to at least rest your body.

You don't need to run the day before your marathon, although some runners like to do a slow, easy 20-minute run, just to stay loose. You should to rest and stay off your feet as much as possible. The day before a marathon is also not the time to experiment with any new foods. Stick to your tried-and-true pre-long run favorites, so you won't have any surprises on marathon day.
More: What to Do the Day Before Your Marathon
9 Last-Minute Marathon Tips

The morning of the marathon can be especially nerve-wracking. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to the start, so you have time to use the bathroom, check your bag, and line up properly.
More: What to Do the Morning of Your Marathon

Make sure that you get your friends and family on board to give you good support at the marathon. Give them a copy of the race course map and tell them your estimated pace, so they'll know when to expect to see you. Share these marathon spectator tips and ideas for inspiring marathon signs with them.

Marathon Racing Strategies

Running a marathon is a tremendous mental challenge because it requires you to push through mental barriers and to make smart, strategic decisions through the race. One of the biggest mistakes first-time marathoners make is that they start out the race too fast. You'll definitely feel good during those first few miles, so it's tempting to push the pace. But you'll pay for it in the later miles. Here are tips on how to avoid starting out too fast and other tips to avoid hitting the wall, as well as other racing mistakes to avoid.

More: How to Predict Your Marathon Time
What's a Good Marathon Time?

Marathon Recovery

Your marathon recovery starts the second you cross that finish line. How you take care of yourself in the hours following the race can determine how quickly you'll recover. For example, it's important that you hydrate and eat something soon after you cross the finish line. You also want to walk around for at least 10 minutes to bring your heart rate down safely and avoid the risk of blood pooling in your legs. Try to resist the urge to immediately plop down on the ground -- your legs will stiffen up right away if you do. Follow these additional recovery tips to help with your marathon recovery.

More: What to Do After Your Marathon
10 Things to Know Before Running a Marathon
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