How to taper your half-marathon training
The final couple of weeks before your race require you to taper your training so you get to the start line in the best shape possible. Here’s some taper tips from elite level runner and coach Shaun Dixon.
Although some people tend to look upon 'the taper' as simply a period to put your feet up and relax before race day, it's actually a very important phase of training and can be difficult to get right.
The one thing you need to bear in mind is that tapering, which is a period of reducing training volume or intensity to allow your body to fully recover so that you start your race in the best condition possible, affects everyone differently. For some runners, a drop in volume can actually leave them feeling more sluggish and tired, whereas others thrive on a couple of weeks of reduced training effort.
As a result, especially if this is your first race, you need tread a fine line between being fresh, bouncy and full of energy or feeling a bit flat.
Turn down the volume
As a general rule of thumb across all running distances it's a good idea to maintain the frequency of your training runs but decrease the volume of running, which is essence means that if you do three runs per week, still do three runs per week, but reduces the distance you run each outing. Your body loves routine so if you've established a good schedule you'll benefit from maintaining it.
Don’t ditch your speed
While you must ensure you hold yourself back on easy and steady runs as your legs recover, it's important that you don't let them forget what it's like to run hard! A slightly reduced interval session or some race-pace practise seven to 10 days before the race is a good idea, and I love one final short and intense blast during a park run the week before any event. But don’t go all-out in the final few days before your race - it can do more harm than good.
Lower the volume
Ahead of your half-marathon race I would recommend that you reduce the distance you run in your final week to around 70-75% of what you’ve been running the previous week, but keep in a good high-intensity run at the start of that final week. This will be enough to keep your legs and lungs used to some speed work, which you’ll want come race day, while reducing the total workload on your body so that it has extra time to recover so that come the start line, you’re firing on all cylinders.
Keep it simple
A final thought: don’t over-think or over-complicate your taper. Remember, you’ve done all the hard work already by putting in the running hours and miles over the course of your training plan, so it’s important to stay calm and relaxed so that you can enjoy the final week before your race, knowing that you’re going to enjoy a very successful race.