How should I taper before running a race?

Tapering is individualized like running programs, shoes and style. However, there are general rules you can follow to find a good tapering plan for you.

The overall length of your taper is based on the distance of your race. This is pretty simple. Research supports the below as the optimal number of days to taper for specific races.

  • Marathon: 19-22 days
  • 15k to 30k: 11-14 days
  • 5k to 10k: 7-10 days

Cut back on mileage, NOT intensity or frequency. Reference the below chart for percent of weekly mileage to decrease:

  • Marathon: 20 percent at three weeks out, 40 percent at two weeks out and 60 percent at one week out
  • 15k to 30k: None at three weeks out, 30 percent at two weeks out and 50 percent at one week out
  • 5k to 1k: None at three weeks out, 20 percent at two weeks out and 50 percent at one week out

The overall goal of tapering is to allow your body to rest and heal from your training while not losing the cardiovascular gains you have worked so hard to obtain. It is also important to mentally feel like you are not getting “out of shape” while cutting back from running before your big race.

By maintaining the amount of times you run (frequency) and running at your target race pace (intensity), but cutting down on the overall mileage, you should mentally feel like you have maintained your current fitness level as your body rests. In other words, you are gaining speed on your race day from running less. It simply does not get better than that.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.