How to taper for a running event
Master the act of tapering before your next big running event.
First of all, what is tapering?
Tapering is when you lower your training load and training intensity in the run-up to your big race. Ted Corbitt, the ‘father of long distance running’, said that “If you can’t run as fast you want to, you haven’t rested enough.” There’s a lot of truth in this which is why many runners consider the most important part of training to be recovery. The main goal of tapering is to replenish your energy stores you’re ready to tackle your run with full force.
How long should you taper for?
The length of your taper is a hard thing to get right. Too short a taper and you’ll end up being tired on the day of your run, but too long a taper can lead to a loss of fitness. How long you taper for depends on how far your event is.
For a marathon (or longer), you should start tapering 3 weeks before the big day, reducing your weekly mileage by 20% in the 3rd week before the event, 40% in the 2nd week and 60% in the last week before the big day.
For a half marathon (or a run between 15–30k), you should start tapering 2 weeks beforehand, reducing your mileage by 30% in the 2nd week before and 50% in the week before.
For a run between of 10k or less, you should start taping the week (or 10 days) before your run, dropping your training load by 50% in the week before the run.
How to reduce your training?
The best way to taper is by reducing your training mileage but keep the same intensity of your runs. Reducing your overall mileage has the greatest impact on reducing your accumulative fatigue.
If you’ve been doing intervals or hill sprints, keep on doing them. You’ll still want to be working just as hard when you’re running, just wind down how many miles you’re doing per week.
Other golden rules
You may find it tough to get used to. You’ve been training at a certain level and then suddenly you’re taking your foot off the gas and not training as much. You will have to fight the urge to keep going at your normal level and just chill. Just trust in the taper plan that you have in place and have faith that it’s the best thing for you.
Another thing to bear in mind is that you won’t want to try anything new in the run up to your big run. Whether it’s a new pair of shoes or a new diet, don’t change what you’ve been doing. You’ll want to keep things nice and simple for the last few weeks.