Well, here it is. The last long run. Three months ago, you looked at the schedule and thought, “What did I get myself into?!” Now you look at the schedule and think, “I can’t believe the race is almost here!”
Coming from a retail background, I am a firm believer in the statement ‘if one person asks you a question, ten people are thinking the same thing.’ With that in mind, a question several folks have asked is, “how far should I run this weekend?” The Whippet plan features a 17 to 20-mile progression run meaning the last few miles should be at marathon pace.
If you feel uncomfortable turning this into a progression run this close to race day then maintain easy run pace (marathon pace +45-to-60 seconds per mile). Additionally, you should weigh any potential injuries/ aches/ pains you may be feeling and weigh any potential loss of fitness against getting to the starting line healthy since most of the heavy training has been completed.
Over the past two months, you’ve completed 20+ miles runs, long marathon-paced workouts, and even casual running and cross-training. Beginning your taper three weeks before the race can result in loss of fitness gained during this period. The science behind a 17 to 20-mile run just two weeks before the marathon is rooted in the preservation of the fitness gained.
While this article focuses on athletes who took time off from exercising completely (i.e. not working out at all), this point resonated heavily with me: “The initial drop off in fitness was fairly quick: after 12 days, levels of enzymes in the blood associated with endurance performance had decreased by 50%, and VO2 max had dropped by 7%.” Our goal is that a 17 to 20-mile run this weekend will prevent any loss in fitness gained and the final two weeks can be used to recover. However, goal distance will vary be athlete.
For beginner marathoners, last week’s 20-23 mile run is likely the longest run of your life and any aches or pains lingering today may make the idea of doing anything close to that distance again so close to race day sound crazy. With that in mind, feel free to run on the lower end of the distance suggested. There are many plans/ thoughts out there suggesting a 13 to 15 mile run this weekend but, as mentioned above, we caution against that for fear of losing fitness.
Intermediate marathoners may have tried different taper methods in the past and still trying to figure out which method works best. If, during previous tapers, this weekend has always been the aforementioned 13 to 15 mile run, this new method should improve race day performance by maintaining fitness level all the way through race day.
Advanced marathoners may have seen their total weekly mileage achieve increase into the 70 mile-per-week range (or even higher) with a 22 to 24 mile run this past weekend. This week should be spent reducing each individual day’s mileage total by 1 to 2 miles and conclude with 19-20 miles this weekend to prevent the weekly total from falling too much too soon.
As always, we’re here to help so let us know if you have any questions. Have a great week!