I have talked about lots of running related topics here (if you have missed them check out my Free Run Coaching Tips page) in order to help you build your best training plan, meet your goals, and prevent injury along the way, but one of the most crucial elements of many training plans is the taper. If you are like I used to be you are currently thinking – the taper?!? As in the taper that makes you go a little crazy, leaves you wanting to run and run and run, and suddenly makes every little sniffle, ache, or pain seem like the end of the world. Yes, that is the taper I am talking about.
Why is the taper so crucial?
We all know there is a difference between running on legs that feel good and running on legs that feel tired. Overworked, sore, heavy legs can kill a run. Heck, on one of my runs last week I felt fabulous mentally, was already to go, and yet my pace was 90 seconds a mile slower than usual because my legs were dead from three tough workouts in a row. However, luckily the opposite is also true – running on fresh, rested, happy legs can make those miles faster. That is why it is so crucial to taper before a goal race. You want your legs feeling fresh and ready to go, not heavy and tired from all the hard training you have put in.
What should I do with that extra time?
In shorter distances like the 5K/10K the taper is not very long so this doesn’t usually become an issue; however, tapering for a half/full marathon can last a few weeks and occasionally this sudden cut back in running before a big race can leave runners feeling a bit crazy. Where did all this extra time come from? Shouldn’t I be running? Instead of sitting around fearing that every little cough is turning into Strep Throat (am I the only one who is always terrified I am getting sick before marathons) it is important to shift your race preparations to a new focus.
Some ideas for you:
– extra rolling and stretching
– going to bed a few minutes earlier each night
– checking out the course information
– planning out your race day checklist/packing list
– meeting up with friends/family you’ve been neglecting since training started
How do I taper?
Honestly, that all depends on the event you are running. Tapering for a marathon is usually done one of two ways. Number 1 – as a two week taper with a much quicker cut down in mileage. This is best for people who find that tapering for too long hurts them more than they feel it helps them. For example, some people feel missing too much mileage hurts their race, while others find the taper very stressful and for both these groups a shorter taper is a better option. (I had a friend almost go over the counter at Starbucks when a barista messed up her order during her Marine Corp Marathon taper, the taper crazies/stress does hit at different levels.) The more common tapering method for the full marathon is number 2 – as a three week taper with a more gradual cut down in mileage. This is what I myself practice and what I suggest for almost all of my run coaching clients, especially first time marathoners. Here is an example of what it might look like for a runner who peaked at 40 miles a week:
How does tapering differ by distance?
Well, instead of a 2 or 3 week taper like you have for a full marathon a half marathon taper is usually only 1 – 2 weeks. This is because it doesn’t take you body quite as long to recover from half marathon training as it does from full marathon training. The same would be true as you go down in distance. For a 10K most people taper just the week of the race by taking it easy, cutting their runs shorter. and adding in an extra rest day. 5K tapering is usually even less than a full week with most people taking just the few days before the race to make sure their legs are rested and ready to go. The most important part of the taper is that it leaves you with fresh legs, so it is important to take into account your training plan, race distance, recovery time, and many other factors when building in your taper.
Let me know –
Full marathons – Are you a 2 or a 3 week taper person?
Do you ever get the taper crazies?