You’ve dedicated months of your busy life training for this marathon. You’ve got up early, gone to bed late, sacrificed your Sunday morning lie in and your evening time in front of the TV or down the pub. You’ve done intervals, tempos, long runs, and logged countless easy miles (hopefully). With only 3 weeks to go you’ve done all the hard work, it’s feet up time now right? Well, not quite.

Yes you should be thinking about easing off but you shouldn’t stop training. It takes around 10 days to see a physiological benefit from a training session so I suggest performing your last workout 12-13 days before, tapering too early robs you of a potentially great workout, after that there’s no need to risk anything so close to the race. You may have missed a key workout or long run in the build up, with less than 10 days to go it is not the time to squeeze that in. Now is the time to focus and get ready for the big day.

Three weeks out.
Reduce weekly volume by 15%. If you’re running 60 miles per week, you should drop to 51 miles, that’s just 9 miles less. Too many runners are guilty of dropping way more than this at this stage, you don’t need to and you shouldn’t. You should maintain intensity. Keep your marathon specific workouts, as I mentioned above it takes 10 days to see physiological benefits from these sessions so no need to drop them so far out.
Many coaches and plans suggest cutting down your long run during this week, I disagree. This should be your longest long run, ideally around 20-22 miles, but with maximum 10-12 miles at marathon pace, you can start cutting back next week. Although, this isn’t the time to push anything and you should listen to your body and don’t be afraid to back off.

Two weeks before goal race
Reduce weekly by 25%. Your 60 miles per week will become 45 miles, or your 100 miles will become 75. You won’t need to think too much about where you’ll reduce the volume, it should come naturally by reducing the long run and the faster workouts. Maintain intensity but reduce volume. Your final specific workout should be done around 12 to 13 days out. You should reduce the volume but keep the intensity specific to your marathon goal. Reduce your long run by 50%, there’s absolutely nothing to gain by running long the weekend before race day but you have plenty to lose. So if 22 miles was your longest run you should aim for around 11 miles for this one but don’t be afraid to do less if you’re not feeling it.

Race Week
Reduce volume by 60% (not including the race) You should keep moving but be disciplined enough not to do too much this week. If you’re peak volume was 60 miles you should be looking at around 24 miles excluding the race. Throw in an extra rest day too. Use this week to visualise your race, prepare your kit, travel and hotel plans, and whatever else you’ve neglected over the past 16 weeks. Eat well but don’t overdo it on the carbs.
Keep intensity to a minimum but include it. You’re not getting any physiological benefits from this but it’s a good idea to turn the legs over at marathon pace one last time before race day. You should do something that won’t leave you fatigued. I like to give my athletes 4 x 3 minutes at marathon pace with a minute easy in between.
You should run a very easy shakeout run of 3 miles or 30 minutes the day before. This will enable your legs to respond better the following day. Ever get the heavy leg feeling after a rest day? We don’t want that on race day. This easy run will help promote blood flow and stimulate the central nervous system.

Sleep as much as you can 2 nights before the marathon as you’re unlikely to get a good nights sleep the night before. Don’t go overboard with carb loading, don’t leave yourself feeling bloated and sluggish on race morning. And try to relax, finishing a marathon is a wonderful feeling, the work is done, enjoy your day.. Good luck! 🙂

If you’re currently training for a marathon or plan on running one this year please get in touch if I can help with anything. If you’d like to find out about my affordable coaching packages do get in touch..