The secrets to half marathon tapering

Tapering is a vital part of any half marathon, but many runners think it isn’t essential.

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This article will address every question that has been asked about half marathon tapering, including the benefits of tapering. Let’s dive in.

What is tapering?

If you are beginning to do sports, the word ‘tapering’ may sound unfamiliar to you.

Simply put, tapering means cutting back on your running in the days leading up to the race. It means you’ll start running less and less as the race day approaches.

As you are about two weeks away from your half marathon, you will gradually decrease your mileage. If you’ve been running 30 to 50 miles per week, you should significantly drop this as you draw closer to the day of the race.

Why should I cut back for a half marathon?

The idea of tapering before a half marathon would sound weird to any runner. How will running less just before a race help me run a faster half marathon? 

Training for a half marathon can be a stressful process. You must cut down on your routine training as you need to be well-energized to perform well on the D-day.

Tapering allows your muscles to rest and recover well from the stress of intensive workouts. You do not want your legs to be fatigued on that day.

Other reasons why you should taper down are:

  • Cutting back on your volume of training will improve your immune function.
  • As extensive training depletes the level of glycogen and hormones in your body, tapering will help them return to their optimal level, thus ensuring that you are adequately fit for the race.
  • Tapering down helps your circulatory system function maximally. Oxygen distribution around your body becomes more effective. 
  • It puts the mind in the right place. You have been in a vigorous training routine for several weeks or months. Stepping back a bit will allow your body and mind to rest after a long period of training.

How do I taper for a half marathon?

A good rule of thumb is ten days to 2 weeks. This, however, depends on individual factors, such as race goals, recovery rate, and training intensity. In addition, you may need more time to rest if you have recently had very stressful moments.

On the contrary, if you feel strong and healthy, you may not need a long tune-up. 

Two weeks before the race

A good tip is to plan your longest run two weeks before the race. This will be the lengthiest run, a threshold run, or a combination of the two. 

A good tip is to cut back on your run by 25 percent. If you walk 40 miles a week, for instance, you start running 12 miles during your training day.

At two weeks, you can still maintain your workout intensity but keep the time short.

One week before the race

Keep the few runs on your schedule at a lower intensity and reduce your mileage to about 60-70% of your peak mileage. You don’t want to incur the fatigue that appears around race day. 

As a beginner, you will probably want to aim for around 8 miles. But if you’ve done many runs before, it’s okay if it’s closer to 10 miles. This period is also a time to taper down on strength training.

Three days before the race

Your mileage now should be between 40 and 50% of your average training mileage. So you’re likely looking at 5-8 miles during race week, maximum.

This is also the time to eliminate any strength training. Focus on resting, doing nice and pretty easy runs, and some lathering or stretching if necessary. 

You can also use the time you are not training to learn everything about race day logistics.

It’s okay to do some light speed work at the beginning of the week before the race. But keep it very light. Remember that this training will not benefit your running performance at all. 

The rest of the week should be very easy races. You can maintain the same quality and intensity of your workouts for up to four days before the race.

A day before the race

This should be a day of rest, no strength training or workout. If you feel like you need a little exercise, take a short walk or a mild run.

Make sure you eat a good meal the day before the race. Some people like carb-loading, although if you’ve eaten carbs during the week, you can do without it. Make sure you have enough good carbohydrates stored in your system.

Some other foods you can enjoy are pasta with meat sauce, stir-fry with tofu, rice, and vegetables, or a quinoa salad. In other words, your meal must balance complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats.

Race day

First, be sure to set the alarm, so you don’t get up late and arrive at the race after it has begun. You should already have every piece of equipment you need for the race-ready the night before.

A 2-week tapering plan to try

As you prepare to run your half marathon, the following tapering plan could be of help

  • Day 14, Sat – 12 miles
  • Day 13, Sun – Rest
  • Day 12, Mon – 5 miles, easy
  • Day 11, Tues – 4×800 (with 1-mile WU/CD)
  • Day 10, Weds – Rest
  • Day 9, Thurs – 4 miles, comfortable pace
  • Day 8, Friday – Rest
  • Day 7, Sat – 8 miles
  • Day 6, Sun – Rest
  • Day 5, Mon – 3-4 miles at race pace
  • Day 4, Tues – 3 miles, easy
  • Day 3, Weds – Rest
  • Day 2, Thurs – 2 miles, easy
  • Day 1, Friday – Rest
  • (Day 0, Sat = Race)

Conclusion 

Whether it’s your first or second marathon, tapering down before the D-day of a race is still crucial. By tapering off, you’ll feel refreshed, well-prepared, and ready to go on race day.