How Many Weeks Before a Marathon Should I Taper?

How Many Weeks Before a Marathon Should I Taper?

Marathon tapering is one of the most important parts of your marathon training. Still, many runners aren’t familiar with the tapering process and schedule.

They find themselves wondering, how many weeks before a marathon should I taper?

If you’re in the same boat, then you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a look at what a tapering schedule looks like and how it can benefit you.

What Is Marathon Tapering?

Marathon tapering means gradually decreasing your training volume. Training for a marathon can be an incredibly taxing process.

There’s a lot of preparation involved, and you need to start training months in advance. On average, runners start training for a marathon about 4-6 months before a race.

The training starts slow, then builds up as your physical condition improves. You use a few different muscles when you run and your training focuses on improving them.

However, after months of training your muscles and stamina, you can exhaust yourself. The muscles will be tense from all the stress.

Why Taper?

Running a marathon is grueling. You’re in the sun for many hours using muscles you spent months growing. So, you can’t go into a marathon with tense muscles. Before a big race, your body needs a break.

This break can come in many forms. The break could involve you cutting down on your overall running hours. It could also involve switching out running for less intense activities.

While this may seem counterproductive, there are actually many benefits to marathon tapering.

How Many Weeks Before a Marathon Should I Taper

Most runners will start their marathon tapering about 2-3 weeks before a marathon. This should give your body enough time to heal and relax.

Still, this number may vary depending on a couple of factors. These factors include:

Your Health Condition

Your health condition is the main deciding factor in your marathon tapering. Since the main goal of tapering is muscle relaxation, it’ll be different for every person.

Some people will only need a few days to get their muscles back to peak condition, while others need weeks.

The amount of time your muscles need to relax changes based on your age, diet, and lifestyle. This means you need to be in tune with your body’s needs.

Since a lot of people struggle with this, to be on the safe side, you want to taper for at least 7-10 days. Anything less than that can be risky to your muscles.

When You Start TrainingHow Many Weeks Before a Marathon Should I Taper: Partial view of sportswoman in starting pose

Depending on when you started your training, your muscles may have different needs.

The earlier you start your training, the less stress your body will go through. You can build up your muscles slowly and give them plenty of time to rest. This means that you don’t need a long taper period.

However, when you start training a few months before the race, you’ll need at least 2-3 weeks of tapering. That will ensure that your muscles are ready to handle the stress of the long run.

If you start training a year before a marathon, then it might be a good idea to taper a few times during the year. Tapering every 2-3 months for a few days will ensure your muscles are in peak condition.

Your Training Program

Your marathon training program will also come into play during tapering. How intense the training program will decide the rest period.

Prepping for a marathon usually involves a lot of running. However, it also includes many other activities. Some people lift weights and do core-strengthening exercises.

Each one of these activities will affect your muscles in a different way. So, depending on how often you work out and what you do, your muscles will need different times to heal.

How Many Weeks Before a Marathon Should I Taper? Can You Taper Too Much

The answer to that question is definitely yes. There are a few people that don’t like the idea of tapering because they think it can lead to muscle weakness.

While this can happen, it’s uncommon. If you follow a proper tapering schedule, this shouldn’t happen.

What Happens When You Taper Too Much?

When you don’t use a muscle for a while, it can weaken. Your brain sends out signals that the muscle is no longer important. Thus, your body will stop sending as many nutrients to that muscle. With the low nutrient level, the muscles can’t perform at the same rate.

It only takes a couple of months for this effect to set in. That means if you’re tapering for more than a few weeks, you’ll end up with weaker muscles, not well-rested muscles.

This is the major drawback of starting marathon training early. If you start too early, you’ll want to start marathon tapering months before the race.

So, it’s best to start your training about 5 months before the race for the best results.

Who Can Benefit From Marathon Tapering

Anyone can sign up for a marathon. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to run a race. However, just because you’re not an athlete doesn’t mean you can avoid tapering.

Many people assume that only athletes need to taper. However, this could be further from the truth.

In fact, most amateur runners can benefit more from tapering than athletes.


Most athletes spend years building up their muscles. They have fixed working-out schedules that they stick to all year. This means their muscles are a lot more developed.

The more you develop your muscles, the less time they need to recuperate. However, athletes have much more intense workouts. So, they still need to taper their training to make sure they avoid injury.


Amateur runners, however, have much easier workouts, but weaker muscles. For this reason, they also need to taper before a marathon.

This means that at the end of the day if you plan on running a marathon, it’s a good idea to taper. Actually, it doesn’t matter if it’s your first or hundredth race, your body can still benefit from tapering.

Benefits of Marathon Tapering

Now that you know all about tapering, it’s time to talk about why we do it. Other than muscle relaxation, tapering has many benefits. Some of these benefits include:

  • Minimize overall fatigue
  • Enhanced performance
  • Improves overall muscle health
  • Can help with itches and rashes

Minimizing Overall Fatigue

When you’re running, you use almost all of your lower body muscles. This includes your hip flexors, glutes, and calf muscles.

However, these aren’t the only muscles you use. You also use your core muscles to help you balance while running.

In addition, your heart pumps blood all around the body while you exercise. This means that running is one of the most involved sports you can practice. It uses up so many of the body’s resources.

So, it should come as no surprise that running can lead to major fatigue. Your body spends most of its time trying to make up for all the extra exercise.

Tapering gives your body a chance to balance out and relax. For this reason, tapering is important to minimize overall fatigue.

Enhancing Your Performance

Since tapering decreases fatigue, it can end up helping you on the day of the race. If you follow the tapering schedule, all your muscles should be at their peak.

Peak muscle performance means that they can withstand a lot more wear and tear. You’re much more ready to take on intense physical exercise. That means you can run for hours without any risk of injury.

Tapering can also help you build up your stamina. Because you’re not using up all your stamina before a race, your body can handle longer periods of exercise.

With muscles at their peak and great stamina, you can perform much better during the marathon. Thus, if improving your running time is on your checklist, tapering might be the way to do it.

Improving Overall Muscle Health

Runners tend to focus on their legs, and they can sometimes forget about all the other muscles. You have to remember that you have plenty of other muscles that need care.

If you neglect other muscle groups, they can end up weakening. While this might seem like a minor issue, it can affect your performance in a marathon.

Tapering can be your opportunity to change up your exercise routine. This will give you a chance to relax overworked muscles and focus on the ones you use less often.

Working out your upper body can help you with balance and it gives your lower body a chance to rest.

Dealing With Chafing

All runners know that one of the worst parts of training is chafing. Generally, chafing happens when skin rubs against skin or clothing. This contact can create a lot of friction.

After a certain amount of friction, your skin breaks out in a rash, which can be painful and itchy. This can be incredibly uncomfortable, especially if you have to exercise.

Creams and lotions act as a barrier to decrease friction. However, the only real solution is to rest.

The only way chafing will go away is if you remove friction from the area. A great way to decrease friction is tapering.

Tapering for about 2-3 weeks will ensure that any chafed areas heal before the marathon. This way you don’t have to worry about awkward scratching during the race.

How to Taper?

Marathon Tapering doesn’t mean you stop working out. You’re only decreasing how much you work out.

Reducing your workout volume can mean different things to people. This means that there are many ways you can go about tapering for a marathon.

Reduce Running Mileage

The most obvious tapering method is to reduce the number of miles you run a day. An average marathon training program includes running 4-6 miles three times a week.

There are two approaches to tapering running mileage:

  • Run for 2-3 miles instead of 4-6
  • Run for two days a week instead of three

Either method should work great. They decrease the intensity of the workout enough to give your muscles a break.

To get the best results, don’t start with the tapered exercise routine. Instead, work your way there slowly. It’ll mean your muscles won’t need as much time to adjust to the new program.

Change Up Your Workout Routine

How Many Weeks Before a Marathon Should I Taper:Man showing training program to woman

If you’re set on maintaining your running mileage, you can try this method. Instead of cutting down on miles, you can change the way you approach them.

One of the most important aspects of marathon training is maintaining a schedule. It helps you stay focused and motivated.

After a while, your body gets used to the schedule. This is why you can experience muscle fatigue. You use the same muscles every time you train.

Changing up the schedule can help you relax your muscles. That can mean breaking up your workout into shorter sessions.

This will give your muscles a chance to loosen up between sessions.

Still, the major issue with this method is time management. Training for a marathon is already time-consuming. Thus, having to find more time during the day to break up your workout can be tricky.

Change Up Your Running Track

While many of us are loyal to our running tracks, changing them up can help you taper.

Unless you’re an athlete, chances are, you don’t train on a professional running track. Generally, people work out on an accessible track near their home or workplace.

Unfortunately, these tracks tend to have rough grounds and may be on an incline. Both these factors can increase the intensity of your run.

So, running a professional track can be easier than running in your neighborhood. Professional tracks have paved floors and are completely level, which decreases friction.

Since you decrease your workout intensity, this is a way of tapering your training. However, on its own, changing the track may not be enough of a taper.

Nutrition During Tapering

Nutrition is a crucial factor in tapering. Because you change the number of calories you burn in a day, you’ll also have to adjust your intake.

When you start marathon training, you also start a strict diet. This diet usually involves carbohydrate-loading. That’s what gives you all the energy you need for the long run.

Still, since you exercise less, you don’t need as many calories a day. If you don’t decrease your caloric intake, you could end up gaining weight. This can have an incredibly negative effect on your marathon run.

What to Do With Your Newfound Free Time

Cutting down on exercise can be difficult for many people. After spending months getting your body used to an activity, taking it away can be jarring.

This is why it’s crucial for you to taper your training slowly. It’ll mean you don’t have to deal with an adjustment period.

Still, no matter how you taper, you end up with a little extra free time. You can choose to spend this time relaxing at home.

However, if you want to boost your marathon performance, you can use the time to stretch out your muscles.

To do this, you can try stretching exercises like yoga or pilates. A massage is also a great idea since it can alleviate soreness and inflammation.

How Many Weeks Before a Marathon Should I Taper: Pilates woman in cadillac split legs stretch exercise

Wrapping Up

Tapering is crucial to a successful marathon. When asking how many weeks before a marathon should I taper, you need to consider a few factors.

Depending on your physical health and workout routine, marathon tapering is a little different. It can be anywhere from a week to three weeks.