Tapering Your Half Marathon

Tapering Your Half Marathon


The hard work is done: now you need to taper. We look at how to manage tapering for a half marathon.

As your half marathon race day approaches, you’ll have already put in the hard miles. With just two weeks to go, there’s very little you can do now to improve your fitness, endurance, strength or speed. But there’s plenty you can do to get yourself to the start line in tip top condition.

It’s a mistake to train hard right up until race day. There’s nothing to gain, and everything to lose. At best, you’ll be exhausted, sore and burned out. At worst, you could get injured and totally mess up all the training you’ve put in.

Why Taper?

For long running races, you need to taper off your training to allow your body to heal and rest ahead of the big day. After all, it’s race day which matters! Tapering allows your body to recover, heal and build strength and enables your mind to wind down and refocus on the job in hand.  How to taper?  Your last long run should be two weeks before your half marathon. Even if you haven’t managed to run as far as you planned to, don’t try to squeeze in one last run. It’s time to rest. You’ll gain more from resting now than you would by shoe-horning one last long run in, we promise. It’s best to get to the start line 90% fit but 100% healthy than 100% fit but carrying an injury or with a battered immune system.

Here’s how your two-week half marathon taper might look. You can foam roll and stretch every day!

Sunday 8 miles steady
Monday rest or 4 miles easy

Tuesday 4×1500 on the track (at 70-80%)
Wednesday rest or 3 miles easy

Friday 4 mile tempo run (30s seconds faster per mile than race pace)
Saturday rest

Sunday 5 miles easy
Mondays rest or 3 miles easy
Tuesday 2-3×1500 on the track (steady pace)
Wednesday rest
Thursday rest or 2 miles easy

Friday rest (walk if you must)
Saturday rest

How To Manage “Taper-Madness” 

Whilst the idea of tapering might sound appealing, the reality is often very different. Many people struggle with their taper weeks, convinced they should be doing something (anything!), that their fitness is withering away before their eyes, that everyone else is out running yet they’re forced to sit and rest.

Tackle taper-madness by putting some strategies in place: arrange a (gentle) massage, go out to the cinema with friends or your partner, take care of jobs around the house (although now is not the time for heavy DIY or redecorating) and use the time to check that everything is in place for the race: your kit, your bag, the route and your post-race plans. Your taper weeks are the ideal time to do gentle rehab techniques such as foam rolling and stretching. If you’ve got an injury or niggle, now’s the time to get it seen to. And you can use the time to catch up with friends and other areas of your life!

Expect to feel sluggish, nervous and irritable during your taper.  Don’t jump in on a cheeky spin class. Tapering means tapering: rest and recover. Stay on top of your hydration, don’t overeat, stretch plenty and just bide your time. Remember that you’ve followed a plan to the best of your ability and done everything you could. Just stay calm and try not to let the doubts creep in.

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