Marathon Challenge – Update 4 and the Taper

wrote a few weeks ago about how I was starting to look for marathons in Europe that might be interesting to run and review and even more interesting to travel to. Using points and miles is really fun for me when I can do something a little different than just taking the single option the award calendar spits out :) . I know, I am strange like that!

Anyway, in a quick overview of my marathon challenge, I had realized the Iceland Marathon was in August and that it was on a day that I would be available. The Challenge part came about because I have not run much at all in the last few weeks given our family’s moving plans, travel, and such. For people that know about training for marathons, optimal training schedules are between 16-18 weeks. It is possible to do it on shorter schedules to be sure, but it always helps to have a solid base in place. In my instance, I really do not have much of a base (the longest distance I ran recently was 27 miles on the treadmill back in May). Please note: if you do not have enough miles under your belt, you can hurt yourself starting from nothing and running a marathon on such a short timetable. I realize the potential is there for that, but given the amount of miles I have before that period and my reasonable goal, I feel I have ruled out the possibility of injuring myself to some extent.

So, once I decided to run the Iceland Marathon, I had 40 days until the race. In that time, I have to ramp up my mileage again and find a way to get to Iceland on the cheap from Greece. The challenge consists of:

  • 40 days of training
  • 40 miles (max) of training per week (to reduce the potential for injury in training)
  • 4:00 hours for the marathon (which is about 30 minutes slower than my PR but is a suitable goal considering my lack of training)
  • Use miles and points to get to Iceland, stay, and get home with as little cash outlay as possible

Race Prep

This week started my taper on my very short schedule. Not a lot of time for workouts this week and I put them closer together than I would have liked to, but the miles are in the bank!

  • Wednesday – 9 miles @ 8:00 pace (a run that started on the boardwalk and finished on the treadmill)
  • Thursday – 8 miles @ 8:03 pace
  • Friday – 14 miles @ 8:34 pace (this was my spur of the moment long run for the week. It was supposed to be on Saturday but I had things come up that made for a long day on Saturday and no room for a run. This was supposed to be 16 miles but my body was having a tough time at the hot gym. Hope its good enough!)
  • Sunday – 6.2 miles @ 7:55 pace (finally had rain – first time in 3 weeks, so it broke the humidity a bit. This was a run with one mile warm-up, 4 miles below 7:30 and one mile cool-down).
  • Total – 37 miles @ 8:16 pace

It was a shorter week than I would have preferred but most of my days are spent on my feet outside so it takes a lot to get my body back in the heat to run!

The Taper

I have a love/hate relationship with tapers. I think most marathoners are like this. We know that the taper is essential but there is the mental aspect in play where we wonder if our miles are going to be good enough to get us to our goal. Another problem that comes is that distances that we were able to run in peak weeks with no difficulty now seem to be difficult to run at a slower pace. That messes our minds up all the more!

The taper is meant to allow our body time to rebuild after the intense peak workouts that we were doing. The taper varies from runner to runner and schedule to schedule. They are typically 2-3 weeks, though. I like the 3 week taper because I get excited about being close to the marathon and that makes it feel that much closer. 🙂 The last long run is normally the signal for the start of the taper.

Here are some tips that will help to make the taper do what it is supposed to:

  • Reduce the volume, not the intensity
  • Reduce the volume gradually
  • Remind yourself of the work you did already when the negative thoughts come
  • Enjoy the taper time and try not to dread it
  • Take care of your health during this time as this is the time when the runner has a better chance of getting sick
  • Have fun and start counting the days!
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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • There’s a half marathon in Berlin this October if you’re interested! Although it’s only half….it’s a great excuse to visit the city;) Also, since it’s in fall the weather will be perfect for running. I’ve just signed up for it and it’s time for me to prepare so I’ll be reading this blog more!

    • That sounds great! Unfortunately, I will be running the half-marathon in Thessaloniki the night before. Even with the great non-stops, I don’t think I could make it from here to Berlin fast enough. 🙂 Believe it or not, I find the half-marathon to be just about the perfect race. It is long enough to really push yourself but I do not feel as torn up after as I do after a marathon. E-mail if I can be of any help!