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The Plan – Breaking the Marathon Taper Rules

I’m a week-and-a-half from marathon day, and I have a number of dilemmas that I’ve either addressed or am trying to address. Here they are:

1. Should I run another 20 miler prior to the race? It’s getting pretty close to race day, so if I don’t do it today I’m pretty much out of time. My last 20 miler was about two weeks ago, and my recovery from that one went well. I think that If I run today, I should be ok on marathon day as long as I take it easy for the next week. I’m probably breaking every rule of marathon tapering by doing this, but I like to experiment and we’ll see how it works. I’ve pretty much decided to go for it, but plan to take it easy.

2. Should I run the big local 5k next week? Last year this race was one of my big downfalls – I ran it too hard and probably suffered some residual tiredness on marathon day. After some inner struggle, I’ve decided to skip the race, but will be in attendance as a race volunteer. This is my first time volunteering at a race, and I’m kind of excited to give something back to the running community that has given me so much.

3. What shoes do I wear on marathon day? I’m still debating whether to wear my standard trainers, my racing shoes (Saucony Fastwitch 2’s), or my new Nike Free 3.0’s. The latter are my new favorites, but I’m not sure how they’ll hold up for a full 26.2 miles. Their near weightlessness, however, makes using them very tempting. I plan to try them on my long run today, and if all goes well they may be on my feet on race day. I figure if they start to hurt on the run today, I can drop by home, switch to another pair, and then finish up.

4. Should I wear my EMS Espresso waistpack (see picture at left)? Fuel and water were issues for me last year, and although I prefer to run without a pack, I’m thinking that I might try it this time around. Having gels at the ready from the get go should help, and this way I can start the race with two water bottles – 1 in the pack, 1 in the hand. It also has pockets to carry a cell phone to help me find the family at the end of the race (easy access to your support crew is helpful after a marathon!). I’m leaning toward wearing it, but have not decided for sure yet.

So this is where I’m at right now with just over a week to go. I’ll update regularly right up to marathon day.

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.


  1. Melanie says:

    Ok, you already made the decision to run the 20 miler today so that’s a non-issue. I feel like I need to sit down just thinking of 20 miles of running…wait, I’m already sitting down. No on the 5K…c’mon why repeat history? New shoes for a marathon or any type of race seem risky to me. I wouldn’t try out anything new on a race but then again I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about either. The pack sounds like a good idea but how much extra weight are we talking? Something to ponder.

  2. Like you, I am just starting to taper for the VCM. It cannot hurt to do a 20 mile in LSD. (long slow distance). I do not plan on doing any double digit running till Vermont. (2) That’s funny… I was thinking of doing an all out 5K this Sunday so it cannot hurt to do it. (3) I have no idea if the lightweight-racing shoes will hold up well for the marathon distance. I will be using Saucony Hurricane XI since it is very comfortable for long distance. (4) I hate wearing fuel belt or anything during long distance running. My wife is my support. We will be working together stragetically where she will meet me in term of refueling. If your wife or anyone you know that will be there, it is a good idea to discuss where to meet for refueling. It helps!

  3. Pete Good says:

    Hi Pete, I know this post was from ages ago but interested to see if you did run 20 miles one week prior to the race? And did it work out? I’m just over a week away from my first and thinking about doing one more 32km tomorrow and then mostly resting for the week leading up to the big day…..

    • Pete Larson says:

      Honestly I don’t remember if I did or not! If you have a few 20 milers under your belt, I’d opt to go shorter one week out.

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