Half Marathon Tapering: 6 Key Tips!

Coach Casey · July 13, 2020

As you prepare for that next, or first, awesome half marathon race you want to be sure that your body is primed for performance! That priming requires the all-important half marathon tapering period. This period ranges between 2-4 weeks and leads you into your race feeling fit, fresh, fast, and ready to hit those race goals! Doing a proper, planned taper can make all the difference in how you feel on race day. It’s not just running less, and certainly isn’t about running slower. A proper taper should be as structured and specific as any part of your training plan. Learn the proper steps to a perfect taper, execute it and get ready to see the results! 

Follow these few simple tapering steps and you’ll love what happens on race day!

6 Tips for Half Marathon Tapering

Taper properly for your next half marathon!

Length of Taper:

The length of your taper period depends on the length of your goal race. For a half marathon you’ll want to structure a 3-week taper. Add a week for a full marathon and subtract a week for anything between 5K to 10K. 

Adjusting Your Weekly Volume:

Now, while it’s not simply about running less, a successful taper does decrease your weekly volume/mileage. There are many ways to decrease your volume during a taper, some better than others. According to the legendary coach Joe Vigil, the most successful decrease is the “exponential taper.” This, versus the “linear” or “one-step” taper, is defined by a steadily growing decrease in volume over the taper period. The “exponential taper” takes a bit more math but will be worth the extra intellectual effort, I promise. For this taper you’ll decrease training volume by larger and larger percentage each day. For example, if you start at 21 days out from a race with 100% of your normal training amount, 20 days out you’ll move down to 95%, 19 days out down to 89%, then at 18 days out down to 82%. This continues until you reach about 20%-30% of your total training amount for the final 3-5 days before racing.

Simple, right?

Keeping Your Speed/Intensity High:

While you’ll be steadily decreasing your volume/mileage over the course of your tapering period, you should not decrease your speed or high-intensity work. In fact, you’ll want to slightly increase it! That may seem counterintuitive but bear with me here: As long as you are successfully decreasing your total volume in order to provide your body with sufficient recovery, keeping your speed training and pacing to your normal standards or slightly higher than normal will stop you from experiencing “detraining.” That is, your legs and body will stay “race ready” and won’t have any trouble managing the speed and intensity of a race while still feeling refreshed post-taper. Keep doing your speed workouts, threshold runs and strides at the same intensities but simply decrease the length or number of reps in the said workouts.

Practice the proper half marathon tapering strategies!

Maintain Training Frequency:

Try to keep your number of runs and your running schedule consistent throughout the half marathon tapering period. Don’t suddenly cut out multiple days of running per week or start running at odd hours of the day from what you’re used to. Once again, consistency of training frequency (no less than 80% or normal) is necessary for avoiding “detraining” or “loss of feel.” Generally we like to call that “going stale,” which is absolutely something you want to avoid pre-race.

Focus on Rest/Recovery + Nutrition:

It’s the little things! It always is. Be sure that you are getting your healthy 8 hours of sleep per night. Remain conscious of your nutrition, making sure that you’re hitting the proper amounts of macronutrients and maintaining a balanced diet. Increase your personal hydration standards. All of these combined will make a HUGE difference when it’s time to race. Ideally these should be on the forefront of your mind throughout all of your training, but at the very least make them a focus during your taper period.

Practice Your Race Tactics, Strategies and Learn the Race Details:

Last, but certainly not least, be sure to practice and know your race strategies and race details before you set foot on the starting line. Use the time during your half marathon tapering period to practice hydration and fueling while running/racing. Review the race course map multiple times. Check the weather on race day consistently. Try out a few different pair of socks and shorts to see what’s most comfortable. Do some trial and error with different strategies for surging on hills, passing competitors, and unleashing a finishing kick. Knowledge is power and the more you have going into the race, the more confident you’ll be! We all know that confidence is King/Queen, so be your truly confident, awesome self!

Looking for even more guidance and training advice to prepare for your half marathon? Sign up for Charge Running and get all the professional, personal coaching you need to crush your half marathon race!

Comments 2

Anonymous · July 13, 2020
Awesome ! Thanks !! 😊
Coach Casey · July 26, 2020
You're welcome! We've got a whole bunch of blog posts covering all types of content from our experienced coaching team. Check them out!

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