Perfect your taper in training
Performing at your best on race day relies on many factors, some of which are controllable, and others that unfortunately are not. Training plays an important role in getting you mentally and physically prepared to race. However, it’s essential to back off your training leading up to key events to ensure you’re well rested and ready to race fast – this is known as tapering.
Your total weekly mileage and long run distance should reduce over the final few weeks before race day. It’s still important to maintain consistency (frequency) and intensity, but volume (distance) should decrease. The final two weeks are all about sharpening and peaking for race day. Running a short, hard session two weeks out is ideal, whilst your speed session during race week should be run at your goal race pace – great for confidence and familiarity.
Longer events require a longer taper. Generally speaking, Half Marathoners should look to complete their longest run two weeks prior. Half marathoners ideally should aim for a long run of 18km, but again many runners will train in excess of race distance. Your long runs should always be at a relaxed and easy pace – do not try to test your staying power in training. Running too quickly will significantly increase injury risk and not allow you to recover properly for your other training sessions. Running a hard 10km 5 weeks prior, or a hard 5km 2-4 weeks out can be a good idea to prepare for the stresses of race day, but you need to allow proper recovery time.
Everyone responds differently to training and tapering. Some people require a longer taper than others, and some people drop their mileage more than others. It may take a couple of events find out what’s best for you. There’s no denying, tapering can be tough – the saying; ‘beware the tapering athlete’ definitely rings true. Often doubt will creep in, along with moodiness, nerves, niggling injuries and sickness. Have confidence that you’ve done all the hard work, and trust the taper. You don’t want all your training to be wasted by poor race preparation.
For more personalized advice about your training and race preparation, book an appointment with one of intraining Running & Triathlon Club coaches.
By Emily Donker (intraining coach, podiatrist and runner)