Taper Before the Race – Counting Down 7 Days to a Marathon

Assuming you have been training regularly, have your travel booked and know where to find your skis, boots, and poles the hard work in preparing for a marathon is done. Here is a general outline for a taper before the race and a few tips to help you make the most of your marathon.

The taper should be between 45-55% of your average weekly training volume. For instance, if you are averaging 6 hours per week, you would cut that down to about half (3 hours) for the taper week. Depending on how your body is feeling, you can adjust that number a bit (hence the 45-55% range).

by Brian Gregg


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Brian Gregg

7 Days Out: Over Distance Ski (3-4 hours)
Get out for a long ski, 3-4 hours at a super easy pace. Use the same technique as you plan to race (i.e. skate or classic). Going longer than your predicted race time will make the effort on race day shorter and feel ‘easier.’

6 Days Out: Recovery Day
Let your body recover and rebuild from your OD workout. Hydrate well and make sure to replenish all glycogen stores by eating plenty of carbohydrates.

5 Days Out: Threshold Intervals 5*6-8m
You should be feeling pretty good after your rest day. You need to remind your muscles how to move quickly. Find terrain similar to the race course and ski just below your race pace. I would recommend 5 intervals of 6-8 minutes for 30-40 minutes of fast skiing. Focus on technique and stay relaxed.

4 Days Out: Easy Ski (1 hour)
Give your muscles a break by switching to the opposite technique of the race (classic or skate).

3 Days Out: Medium Distance Ski (1.5-2 hours)
If you are feeling good, keep the pace easy but go a bit longer so your body remains familiar with exercising for a long period of time.

2 Days Out: Easy Distance Skiing w/ Speed (1-1.5 hour)
Throw in a 5-10 ‘speeds’ of 10-30 second efforts at a pace similar to or just above race pace.

1 Day Out: 20-30min Ski
Try and stay off your feet as much as possible. Go for a short 20-30 min ski or jog to help keep you relaxed. Pack your bag; prepare you feeds/snack for tomorrow to be ready.

Race Day: Race
Treat this day like any other day. Get up have a normal breakfast and give yourself plenty of time to get to the start and enjoy the day.


Plan your travel to be as smooth, quick and stress free as possible. If you are flying look for direct flights and plan to avoid rush hours and minimize night or poor weather driving. Remember to get out for a walk or jog after travel or sitting for long periods of time.

It is always nice to have fast skis but a marathon is really the time to invest the time and money. Check online for service representatives recommendations and if you don’t have it in your wax box go out and support the local shops.


Find out what your body likes during your long training sessions. We have enough glycogen stores in our muscles for about 1.5 to 1.75 hours and a marathon is generally longer than that so it is a good idea to refuel several times midrace with something. Try different gels and sport drinks at varying concentrations. If you are particular to a certain brand, flavor, or mix you may want to consider carrying your own bottle. If you do choose to ski with a bottle practice drinking from it while moving. You may even want to arrange for a friend to hand you a bottle or gel during the event. Caffeine is something to play around with too. I enjoy a little flat Coca-Cola/Red Bull mixture with about 25 minutes to go.

Make sure your equipment is all in working order prior to race day. Check your poles to make sure that the straps are the way you like them. Also check that your baskets are the right size and have plenty glue. Try out any new gloves, hat, boots or skis in training sessions before the race.


When you finish the race there is a good chance that you will be a little out of it. A little planning can go a long way in making your post-race experience more enjoyable.

Warm Clothes
It is important to get into warm dry clothes as soon as possible. Hopefully you will be plenty warm when you cross the finish line but you will cool of quickly in your sweaty clothes. Many race organizers provide bags to put your warm-up clothes in at the start and will have them waiting for you at the finish line. If this service isn’t provided you may consider bringing a bag from home to ensure your clothes stay dry while you are racing. Remember how good it feels after a race to put on a pair of clean dry socks. A nice cotton sweat shirt is good too.

Cool Down
Ski around a bit after you finish the race to let your body flush out some of the lactate and hard work from your system. You may not feel like doing this but this will go a long way toward making you feel better in a few hours. At the very least get out and walk around for fifteen minutes and cheer on other competitors.

Replenish Fluid and Energy
Your body needs it and will likely crave it. Take advantage of the race food provided. It is also a good idea to throw a water bottle, snack and some cash into the warm clothes bag. I always enjoy a treat from the bakery after a long race effort. Try and get a meal in within an hour of the finish and make sure it includes some protein.

Communication Plan
It is fun to share the race experience with friends. Before the gun goes off, make a plan for how you will connect after the race. Do cell phones work at the race venue? Are you going to meet at the finish line or the food tent? It might seem like a silly thing to plan for, but it easy to get lost in the crowd at big races and have some people waiting at the finish line, others at the food tent and some at the car.

Great memories and best friends are made during marathons. Enjoy the process of preparing for, racing in, and celebrating your marathon experience.



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