How to Taper for Your Running Event

 In Running

How to Taper for Your Running Event

*Excerpt taken from You CAN Run Pain Free! A Physio’s 5 Step Guide to  Enjoying Injury-free & Faster Running (available on AMAZON or HERE) pp 271-273 Step 5: The Power of Rest.

When a runner is in the final week or two of event preparation, they will often reduce their training volume and/or intensity. This is done with the intent of ‘freshening up’ for the race, and is known as a taper. The taper process is an example of how a stressed body, when given rest sessions, will enter into a state of ‘freshness’. The runner will then generally perform at their optimal level, or a level better than what would have likely been achieved in a fatigued or un-rested state.

No set formula exists for tapering and getting this balance right is not easy, with many runners tinkering with their race tapers over the course of many years. As a general rule, the longer the distance of the event, the greater the reduction in training volume and intensity that will be required, with a longer time frame for the reduction.

However, every runner will approach a race taper slightly differently. Some will not do one at all. Others will prepare fastidiously and reduce running volume in a very mathematical and precise way. Getting a taper ‘right’ can be a lifelong quest for runners and athletes at large. I guess it’s a bit like trying to play the perfect round of golf.

I suggest that you experiment with reducing your running training leading into events and discover what preparation and taper leaves you feeling the best on race day. Over the years I have tried many different tapers, for events of all different distances – ranging from 5 kilometres to the full marathon. Even after running many road races of all distances I still could not tell you my ideal taper. I can, however, give you some general guidelines that I follow.

POGO Physio Gold Coast how to taper for running events

Take to the start line fresh by tapering for your race.

My suggestions and general guidelines for tapering for different distance events are as follows:

  • 5 kilometre: A taper is generally not needed, and you are quite safe to follow your normal training routine in the week(s) leading into a 5-kilometre event. The only reason you may need a taper is if this is your main event for the season, in which case you would be wise to reduce your training volume several days out from the race. This will help your legs to ‘freshen up’.
  • 10 kilometre: Try reducing your running volume by 20 to 30 per cent in the week leading into the race. Still leave some shorter than normal hard runs and efforts as part of the program.
  • Half-marathon (21.1 kilometre): I suggest reducing your volume by 20 per cent two weeks out, and then by 30 per cent over the last week leading into the event. Keeping some efforts in your program two weeks out is worthwhile, but reduce the number of harder sessions or efforts in the week leading into the event.
  • Marathon (42.2 kilometre): I suggest reducing your running volume by 20, 30 or 50 per cent over the three weeks leading into the event. I believe that many runners (including myself) do far too much training during the last several weeks leading into a marathon. Many times, a runner can become anxious that they have not done enough training in the lead-up to a marathon – and this can occur whether it is their first marathon or they have done several. As a result, they will often ‘cram’ training into the last several weeks, which ultimately leaves them feeling flat, tired and less than their best on race day.

Generally, in the immediate two weeks leading into the race, there is no great need to continue with too much speed work in training. However, some runners find that continuing to include some short and sharp running efforts helps them – even if this is more psychologically than physically.

ps. The below tables taken from You CAN Run Pain Free! provide guidelines for the 1okm, half marathon, and full marathon rest days required in order to avoid over-training and reduce injury risk. Adhering to a training schedule such as outlined in these tables can assist you to get to the start line of your next running event in the freshest manner possible before you even start tapering.

rest days 10km and half marathon

POGO Physio Gold Coast How to Taper for Running Events Marathon

Avoid over-training and injury: rest day guidelines (pp 289-90 You CAN Run Pain Free!)


Brad Beer (APAM)

Physiotherapist, Bestselling Author ‘You CAN Run Pain Free!’, POGO Physio Founder

Run Pain Free Book by Brad Beer

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  • Adem Djemil

    I’m one week away from my second marathon but due to a small injury I had my long run (20 miles) then not done much since! I will put this all down as good ‘rest and recovery’ time 🙂

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