It’s that time of year when we are getting closer to spring goal races. Many runners are gearing up for a half-marathon in April or May, which means it’s almost taper time! As I have started to work with some of my athletes on preparing for their taper, I wanted to share some ways to successfully taper for a half-marathon.
Getting ready to run a full marathon? Here are some tips for tapering correctly for a full marathon!
Many runners can get away with not tapering for a half and still run a decent race. I’ve done this while running half-marathons as a part of marathon training. However, to run your best and really be able to take advantage of your training on race day you need to maximize the taper period. This means cutting your mileage, keeping some intensity, allowing your body to recover, and ensuring you have enough carbs to get you through the race.
How long should you taper for a half-marathon?
Most runners will benefit from a 10-14 day taper. This usually means doing your longest run 2 weeks before your race and then cutting back on your mileage.
How much less should you run during the taper?
During the first week of the taper you will drop your mileage to about 80% of your usual mileage, or what you did the previous week. Your mileage will be less, but you should still follow a similar frequency of running to what you had been doing. You will want to scale back on any strength workouts this week as well. Usually I will include a lighter strength session earlier in the week, but nothing else before race day.
During the second week of the taper (the week leading up to your race) your mileage will drop more significantly, to about 50% of your usual mileage (not including your race). So if you usually run 30 miles per week, you will do around 15 that week prior to race day.
Scaling back on workouts
If you had been doing workouts like speed work and tempo runs during your training, you will want to continue including some faster miles during the taper, but you will want to scale them back. You may run shorter intervals or less repetitions so that you can benefit from the workout without having it wear you down so much that it impacts your race.
Strength training during the taper
Generally, you want to avoid strength training during the week leading up to your race. It may leave you fatigued which is the last thing you want before your race. Two weeks out from your race you may want to include 1-2 lighter strength sessions, but this depends on how much you lifted during your training cycle.
Some runners who are used to strength training often or are injury prone feel better when they get in some kind of strength work. It can be helpful to focus more on mobility and body weight exercises during the taper so that you still get some muscle engagement without needing extra recovery.
Carb Loading During the Taper
While you do want to increase your carbs leading up to your race, you don’t need to make drastic changes during this time. Starting about 2-3 days before your race you can simply add in a few more carbs to help build your glycogen stores. Maybe instead of having eggs for breakfast you can have a bagel, and add in an extra snack of graham crackers. Remember to drink extra water too during this time.
You don’t want to add in so much food that you cause yourself to feel sluggish or have stomach issues. If you need help figuring out how many carbs to add in leading up to your race check out this carb loading calculator and you can also read more information about how to carb load. Remember to also focus on your race day fueling, including a pre-race meal and a plan for taking fuel throughout your race.
Should you run the day before your race?
The short answer to this is that it depends. Usually taking a rest day before the race works well for runners. Some like to do a short, easy shake out run to help with pre-race nerves. If you do run, stick to just a few miles and keep it nice and easy. Also consider whether you usually ran the day before your long run. If you are used to running the day before a long run you may benefit from a shake-out run, otherwise you may want to spend the day trying to relax and mentally preparing for your race.
What does it look like to taper for a half-marathon?
Here is an example of a half-marathon taper plan. This would be assuming that by the peak weeks of your training you were running around 40 miles per week. There are many factors that would be adjusted based on your previous training, so remember that this is just a snapshot of an example. Some runners might do 13-15 miles 2 weeks before their race if they are higher mileage runners with a lot of experience. Some many not include a workout in a long run, or may focus on different types of sharpening workouts during the taper.
If you need help training for a race, remember that running coaches are trained to provide you with individualized workouts that meet your needs as a runner. While online training plans can be helpful, they can’t take into account all of your strengths and needs as a runner, as well as your life circumstances that may impact your training.
Thoughts on the taper
Many runners look forward to the taper, and others dread it. However, it is an important part of training for your race. It’s not always as easy as it sounds either, as you are still running at a similar frequency, just at less volume. Also remember to spend time during the taper focusing on your mental strategies for race day like positive self-talk and using mantras.
While you have some extra time, make sure do get your race day outfit ready and decide which shoes you will wear. I love the Brooks Ghost (affiliate link) for the half-marathon distance!
Looking for a full half-marathon training plan?
I also have a Race Preparation Guide for the 5k to the Marathon with everything you need to know to get ready for your race!
How do you feel about the taper?
Do you run the day before your race?