Less Than Two Weeks to Marathon: You Should be Tapering

By Drew Munhausen

The last thing a runner wants to be told less than two weeks before a marathon? Slow down.

For those unexperienced with marathon training, slowing down right before the big race might seem a bit contradictory. However, experts say that’s what runners should be doing if they plan on running the 2019 Chevron Houston Marathon on Jan. 20.

“The last couple of weeks before a marathon should be a time when runners are letting their bodies recover before race day,” said Jaime Aparicio, board-certified sports clinical specialist and strength and conditioning specialist with the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute. Aparicio is also a 2019 Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassador. “Typically marathon participants start their training with shorter runs, working their way up to longer runs. Then, as the race nears, participants should start to taper their runs. This allows for the body to recover and runners will be able to reach peak performance on race day.”

During the tapering period, your longest run should not exceed 13 miles. Tapering also can have a positive effect on immune function, meaning the odds that you will catch a cold during the race are reduced.

Food

“Now is the time to ensure you have all the nutrition supplies you need,” said Brett Singer, sports dietitian with Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute. “During the run itself, athletes need to consume approximately 30-60g of carbohydrates each hour in the form of sports drinks, gels, blocks, chews or solid foods. If you plan on carrying nutrition supplies with you on the course, make sure you have adequate supplies on hand. If for some reason you still haven’t tried consuming carbohydrates during long training runs, try testing a sports drink on your next few runs ahead of race day.”

If you do plan to stay in a hotel the night before the race, now is a good time to determine which restaurant you’ll eat at for your pre-race dinner and make a reservation. You also want to make sure you’re aware of what the hotel provides for breakfast and if you’ll need to bring something with you.

Marathon Recovery

While there are a lot of different things to plan for in the lead up to a marathon, many new runners don’t think about what to expect after finishing the race. Here are some tips for what to do after you finish a marathon:

  • Keep Moving: Keep walking for 10-15 minutes after the marathon in order to let your heart adjust to its resting rate. You don’t want your muscles to knot up which can happen if you stop moving right after finishing.
  • Food and Drink: Consume plenty of sports drinks and eat snacks that are high in carbohydrates. It’s normal to feel nausea after a race, and many runners do vomit. If you do, make sure to drink plenty of fluids after in order to replenish what you lost.
  • Stretching: You might want to try elevating your legs to refresh circulation after the race. However, wait a few hours before doing a more intense stretch. This allows your muscles to recover the fluids and energy lost. Ice baths are also good to decrease inflammation. Wait at least 24 hours before getting a gentle massage.
  • Sleep: Get plenty of sleep. Your body needs to repair itself and sleep is one of the best medicines.

Other things to consider:

  • Gear: Clothing items worn during the marathon should be the same items you’re wearing during training. Make sure all clothing and accessories work well for you so that there aren’t any problems on race day. Running shoes shouldn’t be brand new – you want to have them broken in before race day.
  • Weather Prep: Don’t forget to check the weather in advance of race day in case any last-minute changes need to be made. You don’t want to be caught unprepared in the event that it’s cold or wet.
  • Transportation: Plan your transportation to and from the race. You will need someone to get you back to your home or hotel room afterwards.

For more training tips and performance enhancement ideas, visit Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute.

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