paved running trail

The Hanson Taper (an oxymoron)

I’m five days into the penultimate week of training before the Marine Corps Marathon.

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That means I’ve got 16 hard weeks of training behind me, and now it’s time to back off and take it easy for the two weeks leading up to the race. Taper time! But since I’m following the Hansons Marathon Method, the jokes on me. There is no taper! At least, not in the usual sense. The Hansons’ marathon training program involves a lot of running, and the taper is no different.

During this week of training I had both my final strength workout on Tuesday (6 x 1 mile for 10 miles total) and my final tempo run on Thursday (10 miles at marathon pace, 12 miles total). Yesterday’s tempo run took place exactly 10 days before the Marine Corps Marathon. Hanson philosophy says it takes 10 days to reap the benefits of a hard workout. So from here on out it’s all easy running. That makes for a 10 day taper.

paved running trail

During that 10 day taper, the training program still has you running six days per week. That kind of freaks me out. Logic tells me I should be decreasing the number of days I run and getting extra rest leading up to the big day. But the Hansons argue that if you subtract too much training too quickly, it could leave you feeling sluggish and even fatigued. Their reasoning:

…consider how you would feel if you were accustomed to drinking a couple of cups of coffee in the morning and then suddenly gave it up cold turkey. Your body probably will react with a dull headache. If instead you cut back to one cup, you limit the effects of withdrawal and usually end up feeling better. This is the same idea – reduce the stress while keeping the body happy in its preestablished routine.

Alright so that does make sense. The last thing I want to do during my taper is lose any of the fitness I have gained. But then I look at the final two weeks of training and forget about all that logic:

Week starts on Monday
Week starts on Monday

Do you see those last three days of training? Not only am I running the three days leading up to the race, but it’s going to total 14 miles. Seriously guys!? They better know what they’re doing. Although, everything they have told me up to this point has been true. They promised that at times training would seem impossible, but that I would get through it and I did. So there’s no reason to doubt them now…. right?? At least I’m not likely to face the taper crazies!

How do you usually taper for a big race?
What do you think, does the Hanson logic make sense?

14 thoughts on “The Hanson Taper (an oxymoron)”

  1. I always cut back a tiny bit more than they have you doing, but their logic seems pretty solid. I guess “the proof is in the pudding,” and you’ll have to let us know how it worked. I hope it’s exactly what you need to run a solid race. Good luck, and enjoy this last week of slightly lighter running!

    1. I always have in the past, but maybe I will end up liking this better? I feel like I’ve followed the training plan up until this point, so now is not the time to do my own thing instead.

  2. I taper a bit more than they have you doing. I did 10 miles the weekend before the race, then a 6 mile speed workout, and a 4 mile recovery run the week before (this week). Enough to keep me moving, but not enough to fatigue. That being said, I definitely have a case of the taper crazies! Hopefully you can avoid them!

  3. Hi – I know this post is a few years old, but I was wondering if you end up following the plan right through to the end? I’m 2.5 weeks out and have loved the Hanson advanced marathon plan, but it does seem like a lot of distance right up until the race. How did it go for you?

    1. Hey Phil – I did end up following the plan right through the end and it went well. Even though it looked like a lot of running, my body was used to the schedule and I made sure to stick to the prescribed paces for each run (kept easy runs easy, etc.). I arrived at the start line ready to run and I felt great.

      Do you actually have the Hansons book? They talk about why the taper is what it is, and it makes a lot of sense. Their theory is if you drastically cut down mileage it will be a shock to your body and you’ll feel heavy and sluggish at the race – although they go into more detail and discuss it more eloquently than I can.

      My race went well right up until mile 20 – when you cross the bridge at Marine Corps. And it was totally a mental thing. Physically, I could have fought through and I definitely feel like I was as prepared as I have ever been for a longer road race. SO, if you’ve been following the plan closely up to this point, I would not deviate now. Good luck at your race!!

  4. Thanks for your update…I have read the book but need to go back and read this part again. I am in your shoes, less than 2 weeks from my marathon and not used to this much running. Trust The Process!

    Saw you are from SW Virginia. We lived in Marion, VA for a while, the trail at Hungry Mother State park was one of my favorite runs/hikes.

    1. Hi Pat! I’m glad the update helped. I hope things went well with your marathon. When it comes to the Hansons, if you have followed the training plan all the way through the BEST thing you can do is stick to the plan (like you said) and follow the taper as written as well. I hope things worked out for you!

      So cool that you lived in the area for awhile. Hungry Mother is a great place to run.

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