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Extending Your Taper Before a Marathon

BY Hal Higdon

Experienced runners have a great endurance base and Hal sees no problem with extending a pre-marathon taper by staying at the same level of training for the first week or two and then cutting back.

Have a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I need to adjust the last few weeks of your Novice I Marathon training program. I have used this same program five times before and always felt it prepared me well. I was planning on doing the Delaware Marathon on May 10th, but a schedule change has forced me to look into the possibly of running my race the following weekend, or possibly the weekend after that. I had already done my final 20-miler and am in the middle of the three-week taper. What do I do if I need to extend my taper to four weeks or even five? Do another 20- miler? If not that, what?


As an experienced runner with five previous marathon finishes, you certainly have the endurance base so that you can “cheat” a bit at the end. Four weeks? Five weeks? I see no problem with extending your taper, staying at the same level of training for the first week or two and then cutting back. If a four-week taper, how about splitting the difference between 20 and 12 miles and settling for a comfortable 16-mile long run? If five weekends, this pattern might work for you: 20 – 12 – 16 – 12 – 8. But the important message is that you are a veteran runner. You know what to expect. The extra rest before the marathon might be just what you need to run a really fine race.

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About Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for ‘Runner’s World‘ and author of 34 books, including the best-selling ‘Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide’. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that over a quarter of a million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks. Hal uses TrainingPeaks to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans — check out more of Hal Higdon’s training plans on his website.