With just four days left until I run the Hertfordshire Half Marathon I’m fully into my taper right now. Unusually for me, I’ve not taken a long taper for this race, mainly because I’ve kept my mileage low throughout my training and, although I want to get a good time, I’m not planning on PBing and instead I’m using it as a way to test my fitness before I start marathon training for next year’s Edinburgh Marathon.
Although not part of my original taper plan, last week I ended up taking a full week off running as I was having a stressful week, wasn’t feeling 100% and felt I just needed a bit of a break. This wasn’t ideal so close to a race, but I knew that I had been consistently running for months and one week off wasn’t going to make a big difference come race day. As well as this, getting this close to the race it is more important to stay healthy and injury free than to push yourself too much by running when you should be resting. On Sunday I was back out running and did six miles, which started out as easy and then I increased the pace towards the end. During this week (the final week before the race) I’m only running twice. I did a three mile interval session on the treadmill yesterday and I’m planning on doing four easy miles, again on the treadmill, tomorrow. And that’s it – all I’m doing before Sunday’s race.
My taper is unique to my personal circumstances. I’m experienced at running the half marathon distance and have run over 10 races at this distance, as well as completing four full marathons over the last few years, so I know I can get around the 13.1 miles. In addition to this, I’m not going for a PB and just using the race as a way to test my fitness before my marathon training begins, which means I don’t have to worry too much about doing a more structured taper.
Why is a taper important?
For any long distance race you should incorporate a taper into your training plan. Normally the length of the taper will depend on the distance of your race – the longer the race distance the longer the taper. Saying this, the length of the taper will also depend on individual factors, for example how experienced a runner you are and whether you are injured. The main purpose of a taper is to help your body to recover from the training to be as fresh as possible for race day. It’s still important to continue running during the taper period to keep your fitness levels up and to retain your strength, however normally you will reduce the miles you run and the intensity of the runs during the taper.
For those new to marathon running and who are looking to follow a structured taper, any good training plan should have it incorporated into the plan, for example Runner’s World does a range of free online training plans for both the half marathon and full marathon race distances, all of which include a taper.