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Tips for the Marathon Taper

Posted by George Parker on
Tips for the Marathon Taper

The time has arrived! In seven days, I run the California International Marathon. Now, I am fully in the taper period - having reduced my weekly mileage beginning last week.  

With the reduction in daily mileage, I find that I have a few extra hours during the taper period. Traditionally, I use this extra time as an opportunity to get better - specifically to read a book or two that I have been meaning to finish. Since I (normally) run early in the morning, I have this extra time before the family wakes or my 9-5 begins - the perfect time for reading.  

Below are books I have read during past tapers. I highly recommend each if you are looking to tame that pre-race anticipation.  


Kings of the Road (Cameron Stracher)

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Kings of the Road is a historical account of the American distance running birth among mainstream runners in the 1980's. It chronicles the legendary races of our sport's great running including Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar. 

From the back cover: 

"Kings of the Road tells the story of running during that golden period from 1972 to 1981 when Shorter, Rodgers, and Salazar captured the imagination of the American public as they passed their figurative baton from one to the other. These three men were American running during those years, while the sport enjoyed a popularity never equaled. As America now experiences a similar running boom, Kings of the Road is a stirring, inspiring narrative of three men pushing themselves toward greatness and taking their country along for the ride."

I enjoyed this book for the ease of reading and its relevance to the current resurgence of distance running among American runners. The recounts of great races of the past serve as great pre-race motivation during a taper. 

Eat & Run (Scott Jurek)

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Ultrarunner Scott Jurek's autobiography...and cook book. 

Eat & Run provides first person background behind the rise of Scott Jurek and some of his most memorable long-distance feats. Scott is a vegan - a diet and lifestyle that he credits for much of his running success and longetivity. As such, the techniques and recipes for runners to incorporate the vegan lifestyle are included throughout the book. 

From the cover: "In Eat and Run, Scott Jurek opens up about his life and career - as an elite athlete and a vegan - and inspires runners at every level...Chock-full of incredible, on-the-brink stories of endurance and competition, fascinating science, and accessible practical advice - including his own favorite plant-based recipes - Eat and Run will motivate everyone to "go the distance," whether that means getting out for the first run, expanding your food horizons, or simply exploring the limits of your own potential. 

Eat & Run is lite and quick read - perfect for a taper with added benefit of making 26.2 miles seem not that long. 

Born to Run and Natural Born Heroes (Christopher McDougall)

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A national bestseller - probably fueled by all the runners out there. A must read for runners!  From the book's summary:

"An epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? Isolated by Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. In a riveting narrative, award-winning journalist and often-injured runner Christopher McDougall sets out to discover their secrets. In the process, he takes his readers from science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultra-runners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to a climactic race in the Copper Canyons that pits America’s best ultra-runners against the tribe. McDougall’s incredible story will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that you, indeed all of us, were born to run."

A true story of an everyday runner trying to tap his potential. What a fitting read during a pre-race taper. 

The World According to Garp (John Irving)

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Not a book about running, but a classic work of fiction with a complicated and sophisticated (sometimes bizarre) plot. From the back of the book: : 

"This is the life of T.S. Garp, the bastard son of Jenny Fields - a feminist leader ahead of her time. This is the life and death of a famous mother and her almost-famous son; theirs is a world of sexual extremes - even of sexual assassinations. It is a novel rich with "lunacy and sorrow"; yet the dark, violent events of the story do not undermine a comedy both ribald and robust. In more than thirty languages, in more than forty countries - with more that ten million copies in print - this novel provides almost cheerful, even hilarious evidence of its famous last line: "In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases."

I enjoyed this book because of its complex character development and intriguing plot twists. It's a simple read, but not necessarily easy to read. Irving flows the words easy enough, but to capture the true meaning requires concentration. The protagonist, Garp, is an avid wrestler and runner, so there is some relation to the sport of marathon running. 

Iron War (Matt Fitzgerald)

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An excellent book detailing the rise of the sport of Ironman Triathlon. The central plot is the decade-long, world championship battle in Kona, Hawaii  between two of the best ever in the sport: Dave Scott and Mark Allen. 

From the book: "The 1989 Ironman World Championship was the greatest race ever in endurance sports. In a spectacular duel that became known as the Iron War, the world's two strongest athletes raced side by side at world-record pace for a grueling 139 miles.

Driven by one of the fiercest rivalries in triathlon, Dave Scott and Mark Allen raced shoulder to shoulder through Ironman's 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike race, and 26.2-mile marathon. After 8 punishing hours, both men would demolish the previous record--and cross the finish line a mere 58 seconds apart."

I enjoyed the book for the historical rise of the sport, which occurred at the same time as the American distance running boom. And, the disciple and work ethic exhibited by Ironman triathletes will make your upcoming marathon seem more like a weekend training run...

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