I go into the three-week tape—I always take three weeks, though some folks do two—thinking that I will instantly feeled refreshed and ready to go. The truth, that first week is still difficult. Your legs are still tired from you last week of real training and if you're tapering correcly, while your mileage has dropped a little, you're still keeping the quality and intensity of your workouts relatively unchanged.
Since I'm sure I'm not the only person in America who is tapering for a marathon right now or will be doing so soon, I figured I would offer a few words of wisdom. While this may be especially valuable for someone who's training for their first marathon, veterans may benefit from what I'm about to say as well.
|Photo courtesy of http://trilife.org/blog/?paged=6|
Keep it simple. Don't try anything new during the taper. Now isn't the time to try some new workout you just heard about: it's not going to make you faster at this point in the game. Now isn't the time to try to make up for a missed long run or to start cross-training. Stick with what you've been doing all along, just allow for a gradual reduction in mileage. Nothing you do in the two weeks before the marathon is going to improve your running, but it can hurt it.
When in doubt, rest. If you find yourself questioning whether you should do an easy 5 miler because you're tired or you legs hurt, take the day off. This doesn't mean you should blow off all of your scheduled runs, but taking an extra rest day here or there isn't going to hurt. If your body is telling you to rest, listen to it. Wait until marathon day to fight the voices in your head telling you to slow down or stop.
Do something that isn't related to running. Especially during the final week of the taper, you need a distraction. If left to your own devices, you would probably think about your marathon until your head exploded. That's not good for anyone (read: you or the people you interact with on a daily basis). Is there a book you've been wanting to read? A series on Netflix all your friends have been telling you to watch? An apple pie you've been meaning to bake and FedEx to me? Now is a great time to do one of those things.
Lastly, Visualize success. Whenever you have any doubt, just picture yourself crossing the finish line looking good and feeling strong. Running 26.2 miles won't be easy, but you've trained for this and if you believe you can succeed, it will make it much easier to run a good race.