You’ve worked hard. You’ve followed your training plan, did all those long runs, that speed work, and now you’re about two weeks out from your race. You’re not done yet, though. The final part of your training starts now. It’s time for your half marathon taper.
Many runners fear that they will lose fitness by reducing their training for two weeks before their race. On the contrary, the half marathon taper is just the recovery and rest that your body needs to be able to perform at your best in your event.
Make the Most of Your Half Marathon Taper
A half marathon taper is more complex than just cutting down your mileage, though that is a part of it. Think of the taper as the final act of preparation for your race. Done correctly, you will hit the starting line of your event well rested, well fueled, and well hydrated.
Half Marathon Taper Week 1
Your last long training run should be about two weeks out from your half marathon. That will probably also be your peak week, the week that has the most mileage, of your training program.
During the first week of your half marathon taper, you should cut your overall mileage by about one-third. That will come mostly from the reduction of your long run distance, so there won’t be a lot of other changes.
For example, if you ran 32 miles the previous week with a long run of 12 miles, during the first week of your half marathon taper, you will cut your total mileage to about 20-22 miles, and reduce your long run to around six-10 miles.
During the last part of your half marathon training, your speed work should be focused on race pace training. During the first week of your half marathon taper, you can do one or two higher intensity workouts, keeping the volume of each workout in line with the overall reduction in mileage.
Hopefully, you’ve been eating like an athlete during your training, and you won’t have to make many changes during this first week of your half marathon taper. Focus on whole grains and complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Remember that you’ve cut your mileage, so you may want to cut back the total quantity that you eat as well.
Keep an eye on your hydration. Because you are running less you may be inclined to not stay as hydrated. Continue to drink an adequate amount of fluids and electrolytes during this time.
Half Marathon Taper Week 2
During the final week of your half marathon taper, plan to reduce your mileage by another third (not counting your race). So, based on the first example, you would run 10-14 miles in the week leading up to your race.
Try to fit your higher mileage in toward the beginning of the week, gradually tapering off as you get closer to your race. Running the day before the race is optional. Some runners like to do a “shake out” run, to loosen up their legs and stretch them out a bit. If you do such a run be sure to keep it short and easy, two to three miles at most.
Most of your running this week should be pretty easy, but adding in a “race pace” tempo run during the early part of the week will be a good way to keep your legs fresh and mobile.
Taper off any strength training that you do during this week too. Keep it light in the beginning of the week, then allow your body to rest the last several days before your race.
Hopefully, you have been resting and sleeping well during your training cycle. It is a very important part of your training. Many runners don’t sleep as well during the half marathon taper due to the reduction in training, so be aware that you want to get the best quality sleep that you can this last week.
Try to go to bed at your regular time the night before your race, or even a little earlier if you must get up earlier than normal. Don’t worry too much if you don’t sleep very well. Your excitement and adrenaline will see you through.
Generally speaking, continue to follow the same nutrition plan that has served you well during training. Again, since you will be reducing your mileage, you should eat a little less. Be sure to continue to stay hydrated throughout the week.
On race morning, follow one of the main rules of training and don’t try anything new! Eat a light breakfast and continue to hydrate all the way up to race time. Make sure that your Race Day Plan includes your nutrition and hydration for your half marathon!
Many runners find it difficult to reduce their running distance and intensity during their half marathon taper. It can feel counter-intuitive to decrease training. Believe me, though, your body will perform much better during your race when you follow this taper plan and arrive at the starting line with fresh legs. Trust the process. Good luck!
Are you training for a marathon? See the Art (and some Science) of the Marathon Taper!
Are you a taper-lover or a taper-hater?
And Now It’s Time for the Running Coaches’ Corner!
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