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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 28, 2003

Tapering is an integral part of race preparation

By Jonathan Lyau
Special to The Advertiser

I have met many people who have been disappointed in their marathon performance.

They end up running a time that is not indicative of their training, or race times at shorter distances. They don't know what happened after training so hard.

The answer could be in something called tapering, and with the Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 14, it is important to understand the art of tapering.

It is perhaps the most important aspect in the last month of training and is taken lightly by many.

If you have been following a training plan for the past several months, then tapering should have started about four or five weeks before the race. This begins after you have completed your peak mileage week.

With the race a little more than two weeks away, you should be running 60 percent of your workouts two weeks before the race and 50 percent the final week.

During this period, you should still be maintaining the longer runs and hard runs/workouts each week.

A decrease in mileage will come from reducing the distance of your runs on the other days. It is also a good time to take an extra day off from training if you feel a little run down.

Your longest long run should have been done three weeks before the marathon. During the final two weeks, mileage should be close to 50 percent of what your peak mileage was.

Hard workouts can still be done, but the duration should be decreased.

By this time, you should begin to feel fresher and sharper.

Your recovery time between workouts will also become shorter. Because of this, the tendency is to run harder — so be careful, as this is where mistakes in training are made.

Be in control of your pace during your workouts and make sure you do not overdo it. Remember that all your training has been done.

Kane Ng-Osorio, 28, Internet store manager for Reyns.com, has run three marathons.

"The hard part is to hold back on those easy runs and go easy while my legs want to move fast," he said.

Your race performance depends on what you have been doing for the past months, not the final two weeks.

All you want to do at this point is to maintain your fitness and not introduce more stress to the body. My advice during the last couple of weeks is that less is better than more.

Your goal is to get to the marathon start mentally prepared and with fresh legs.

Running too many hard days as you get close to the marathon could sabotage your race. If you are not careful in your taper, all of your hard months of training could go to waste.

A tapering phase makes sense, and many need to be reminded of it. It is something that you should look forward to doing.

Michelle Emerson, 43, a U.S. Navy officer who has completed seven marathons, said, "I have always enjoyed knowing that after months of hard training, the time will come for a relatively easy period in preparation for being at my best for marathon day."

Tapering is just as important as your hard phases in training. Once you learn and master the art of tapering, you will be surprised how much easier and better you will feel on marathon day.

Kit Smith, 69, a veteran of 18 Honolulu Marathons summed it up.

"I view tapering as a reward for hard work. It's like enjoying dessert after a prolonged diet of food selected for nutrition more than yumminess."

Jonathan Lyau, a veteran local runner, will be running in his 21st Honolulu Marathon.