Marathon Tapering for Mortals

Grandma’s Marathon is a month away. For many runners, this means a final long run and the beginning of the taper. Tapering allows your body to recover. Training doesn’t always have to be hard. The best training plans build in a pattern of stress and recovery. Remember, recovery is training. 

What Is Tapering?

Tapering involves a gradual decrease in your training volume as the race approaches. It allows your body to adapt to the hard work you’ve put in during training. Tapering is not the same as complete rest; it’s about reducing volume while maintaining fitness. 

Goals of Tapering:

What are you trying to accomplish when you taper? 

  • Increase Muscle Glycogen: Ensure muscles are loaded with fuel for race day.
  • Reduce Overtraining Risk: Avoid pushing too hard right before the race.
  • Minimize Stress: Keep your mind and body fresher.
  • Enhance Muscle Recovery: Reduce fatigue and optimize performance.
  • Improve Fast-Twitch Muscle Function: Leading to faster race times.

Why Is Tapering Important?

So, why do runners taper? 

  • Muscle Repair: Cutting back on miles allows your muscles to repair and your glycogen stores to replenish. Long runs and fast workouts can cause micro-tears in your muscles. During a taper, these have a chance to heal.
  • Optimal Performance: Tapering ensures you absorb your training and perform at your best on race day.
  • Allow Time for Biological Changes: During taper, depleted muscle glycogen levels, enzymes, antioxidants, and hormones return to normal.
  • Energy and Readiness: You’ll feel bursting with energy because your body is primed to run.


Tapering is important, but be warned. Runners who taper can find themselves irritable. You might want to sneak in one last long run or an extra-difficult workout. Resist the temptation. Remember, recovery is training. Tapering is your opportunity to fine-tune your body and arrive at the starting line ready for your best race. 


Tony Loyd

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Favorite Grandma’s Marathon Memory: In 2022, I was scheduled to run Grandma’s Marathon. Unfortunately, I suffered a stress fracture in my left ankle in May, so I was out of the race. I decided to come to Duluth anyway. How could I miss Grandma Marathon weekend? There’s nothing else like it in the world.

I could take full advantage of the weekend because I was not stressed about resting for race day. I took my time and explored the expo. I had a chance to meet some of my running heroes. FOX25 interviewed me. I had a blast.

On race day, I saw the race as a spectator. I had a chance to see what others see, a never-ending parade of inspiring individuals, from elite athletes to the back of the pack. The looks on their faces told a story of months of sacrifice that led to this one day, Grandma’s Marathon. It was inspiring!

Quote that guides, inspires, or embodies your training, racing, or life: My race, my pace. It doesn’t matter what pace everyone else is running. This is my race, and I run it at my pace. This applies to Grandma’s Marathon and to life.

Song that must be on your running playlist: If I said murder mystery podcasts, would you be horrified?

Reason you absolutely won’t run outside: If there is a health and safety issue, I head inside. Lightning, poor air quality, temperatures that instantly freeze your skin – things like that.

2024 running goal: If my training goes well, I hope to run a 3:26 marathon. That will automatically qualify me for the AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Championships.

Three words to describe your training, racing, or life: Run and have fun. OK, that’s four words. What can I say? I’m a rebel.