Lee Troop of Boulder, Colo., is a three-time Australian Olympian with a 2:09:49 personal best in the marathon. Known as “Troopy” in running circles, the 42-year-old owns Fleet Feet Sports in Boulder and also serves as the high performance coach for the Boulder Track Club, where he mentors reigning U.S. cross country champion Laura Thweatt, 2:13 marathoner Sean Quigley and others.
We caught up with him recently to talk about the most important things you need to keep in mind when tapering for a marathon to ensure you arrive at the starting line ready to have a great race.
1. Listen to your body.
“Over the many weeks training, you will have pushed your body to its limit and sometimes you don’t realize how close you are to that edge until your start tapering,” Troop explains. “If you’re tired, try and get more rest, hydrate and eat well. If a light massage is needed, and you are used to having them, then get one. By listening to your body, you can help it recover better.”
2. Avoid unnecessary treatment.
“Don’t get a deep massage or any other form of alternative treatment that you have never had done before unless you’re injured and it’s necessary to help get you to the start line,” Troop says. “Sometimes people think this is a great thing to do to help their body but it can do more harm than good in the short term, as it can stress the body more and take you a few extra days to fully recover from it.”
3. Don’t try to make up for lost training.
“Squeezing in extra volume or doing a harder session just to please your mind that you are ready is common with people that have missed some of their training due to illness or injury,” Troop explains. “Nothing extra you do from a training perspective in the taper will make you run better, but it can certainly ruin your chance of success if you do something so hard that you don’t recover from it.”
4. Maintain your diet.
“Changing diets and seeing results from them can take 2-4 weeks at a minimum,” Troop says. “Usually when individuals change a diet drastically, the body will need time to adapt and absorb it. Your body is already going through a lot as it tapers from all the hard training you have done and trying to get ready for the tough 26.2 miles that lay ahead.”
5. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.
“Runners who start to taper are not doing the normal volume or intensity that they would normally do, so then they don’t feel as thirsty or dehydrated,” Troop says. “Don’t fall into that trap of thinking that because you are not exercising as much, that you don’t need to hydrate, because you do. Twenty-six-point-two miles is hard enough. It’s only gets harder when you don’t have any water in your radiator!”
6. Mentally prepare yourself to dig deep.
“Through your training, you will have experienced some tougher periods where you had to really dig deep to complete those training sessions,” Troop says. “Recall those efforts, mentally prepare yourself and draw strength for what is ahead in your race. This will aid in your confidence that you are ready and prepared.”