Published on April 23rd, 2015 | by Mark
Half Marathon Taper
Training for race day is coming to a close, and it’s time to do a half marathon taper to ensure maximum success for your race. A taper for endurance race training entails reducing the amount of miles you are running in the same gradual way that you have increased your miles throughout the length of your training. As always, it is the best policy to consult with your doctor before undertaking any exercise or nutrition program.
Appropriate training is a key part of avoiding injury while maintaining the ability to reach your personal goals. Just as important as increasing your mileage for endurance is decreasing at the proper point in your training to preserve your physical conditioning and ensure readiness on race day.
For a half marathon training program you will want to take several months to start out slow and easy with low miles, and increase your miles per run every week to achieve your longest training run shortly before race day. You will complete your longest run about two weeks prior to your race, anywhere in the range of 10-14 miles is standard for this long run. Shorter runs during the week are also typical during this time and are fine to continue.
One week before race day, your long run should be no longer than 50-60% of the last long run, about 6-10 miles. Your last week of running can include several shorter runs of 2-5 miles per run. Any cross training you are doing in addition to running should also be reduced.
During the taper period, it is not necessary to decrease the intensity or speed of your running, in fact, it is beneficial to maintain your regular speed and intensity with every run during this time. Your body is already accustomed to your normal, comfortable pace, and the factor that can most affect your readiness is distance. This is why it’s important that you decrease your distances, but you do not need to slow down.
It is also essential during this time period before your race that you get enough sleep and keep up proper nutrition and hydration. Six to eight hours of sleep is a generally recommended amount of sleep to try to attain each night; the night before the race you should try to get 8 hours of sleep but with the excitement that accompanies race day, sometimes this is not possible and that is okay.
Foods that are higher in carbohydrate content are an excellent source of energy before and during a run; eat these foods as the snack or meal before a training run. Many endurance runners find it beneficial the night before their race to eat a large high-carb meal, which will help sustain them through an anxious, exciting next morning and the beginning of their race. It is also a great idea to have high carb snacks or gels along with you for a longer race such as a marathon or half marathon. Health food stores and running stores often provide many wonderful options for easily replaceable energy during your long run. Protein is essential for muscle repair and rebuilding, and for this reason you should eat foods high in protein within thirty minutes following a training run. One thing to note is that you do not want to introduce any new foods to your diet during the taper period or during the race. Try to get your carbohydrates and protein from the sources you have been using during training. Introducing a new food on race day can have unpredictable consequences!
A suitable half marathon taper will keep you rested but ready, and will only serve to enhance your physical ability to perform at top level for your race. Remember that you are the best judge of what your body can handle, and what it is capable of, but that it is always safer to err on the side of caution rather than to sustain an injury.
Image Credit: Title:Sunset Runner by Josh Janssen, on Flickr