Coach's Corner: How to Taper Running

Photos by Marques Jackson/ Filles Garcons Photography .

Photos by Marques Jackson/Filles Garcons Photography.

Reduce your miles as you get closer to your race date and your body will be prepared to hit peak performance.

Reduce your miles as you get closer to your race date and your body will be prepared to hit peak performance.

Whether you’re training for the Chicago Marathon, the NYC Marathon, a half marathon or other long distance race, tapering is key to a successful race day. Even 5K runners can benefit from tapering. Tapering prepares your body to hit peak performance on race day. Before we get into how to taper running though, first let’s examine what is a taper for runners and the benefits of tapering.

What Is a Taper?

Taper means to reduce gradually. Tapering for runners is reducing your mileage and training in the days leading up to a race. The amount of time you taper can vary from 2 to 5 days for a 5K to 3 or 4 weeks for a marathon. Tapering prepares you to hit your peak speed and endurance on race day by allowing your body to rest and recover in the days leading up to the race.

Benefits of Tapering

Incorporating tapering into your running program gives your body time to rest and rebuild from your weeks of hard training. This reduced mileage training helps prepare you for race day, giving you time to refuel and rest.

How to Taper

Schedule tapering into your running plan by reducing your run distance and intensity more and more as you get closer to your race. A general guideline to keep in mind is to start tapering about 7–14 days between your final hard workout and race day. Your body takes about that time to fully recover and benefit from an intense workout.

Reduce your mileage. After your final hard workout, start cutting miles from your training plan. Generally you can keep the same amount of days you run, but just reduce your miles and intensity. Do not run any hard workouts for 2 weeks before your half marathon or 3 weeks before your marathon. You can also add extra rest days as needed. Some short, medium intensity runs such as doing strides after an easy run will help keep your legs fresh and primed for race day.

Tapering and Your Running Program

It’s important to personalize your tapering plan to suit your individual body and training. For athletes that take longer to recover from hard training days, a longer taper, even for shorter races, will be most beneficial. Conversely, if you’re in the lucky class of runners who is rarely injured and bounces back fast from hard workout days, you won’t need to taper as long.

Mental Training

Many runners hate tapering, especially longer tapers before marathons, because less running can mean less dopamine and stress relief, right at the time you are preparing for the big race day. To keep your mind at ease and happy, here are some suggestions:

  • Sleep well. Get enough sleep to maximize recovery time.

  • Eat nutritiously. This helps your body refuel and stock up on needed nutrients for race day.

  • Relax. Take some self-care time to do things you enjoy - read, take baths, meditate, do light yoga. Training can be so busy - especially the long hours required for marathon training - and now you finally have some time to catch up on your hobbies and relaxation time. Enjoy it.

  • Meditate. Practice some breathing exercises and meditation. This is a great time to do some visualizing to prepare for race day. Here are some tips to visualize running success and prep for your race.

Do you have a taper routine? What helps you stay on track and relax during taper time? Comment below.

Marnie Kunz is a RRCA-certified running coach and the creator of Runstreet Art Runs, which bring together communities through running and street art. She is a Brooklyn resident, running coach and writer. She enjoys traveling, art, and eating messily. You can follow her running and events at @Runstreet Instagram and Runstreet Facebook.

Related Posts: Appreciating Each Run As Its Own Experience, 6 Tips to Visualize Running Success, Improve Your Running with Mantras, Mind Over Matter: Running & Meditation


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