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How to taper right for your next big race.

Most of you will be familiar with what a taper is. It is a recovery period when your training volume is reduced in preparation for a race. Generally speaking for a half marathon, marathon or ultramarathon the taper will be 2-3 weeks.
Training runs are adapted by reducing the length of your long weekend runs, longer weekday runs and removing any big hill and speed sessions. For example in week 1 of a 3 week taper you may reduce your weekly kms by 30%. This is based on your peak weekly kms. In week 2 you may reduce by 50% and in week 1 (race week) you may reduce to 2-4 short runs of 3-9km.
If you have tapered well you should be feeling great and itching to get to the starting line.


The challenging part of the taper is the psychological side and the following thoughts are very common.

  1. I can’t afford to reduce my training – I will not be ready if I do.
  2. I will put on weight and it will make my race harder.
  3. I am bored, tired and lethargic.
  4. I should start speed training in my taper to help with my race.

Understand that the benefits of the taper are to minimise accumilated fatigue and allow your body to recovery from the high physiolgical demands that you have been putting it under. This doesn’t mean stop training all togther.
Some helpful tips to allow you to enjoy the taper.
  1. Keep your running routine the same in the taper. Train on the same days that you normally would – just reduce volume.
  2. Carrying a small amount of extra weight is ok pre race as long as you have eaten well and are well hydrated.
  3. Take the time to plan mentally. Know the course, where the aid stations are located, when you are going to eat and drink, check your kit list (pack, ipod, wet weather gear etc).
  4. Any significant changes to your training in a taper like additional hill work or adding speed work is like doing a heavy set of squats when you haven’t done them for 8 weeks. You body is not ready for it and will be sore afterwards.

Trust your training and the effort you have out in over the previous weeks and months. Remember why you wanted to do it in the first place and enjoy the taper weeks. Take the time to do some additional stretching, read a book or watch a movie.
Most importantly arrive at the start line with a smile on your face and enjoy the race.

Check out our Running Start plan with all the fully periodised running plans (including taper) that will get you to the start line in the best shape ever! and download our free run training ecourse at Run Training Ecourse