How to Taper for a Race

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Fun toppings make oatmeal complete!


I woke up to a delicious cup of coffee and bowl of banana oatmeal.  It was the perfect way to get my Thursday started!


My oatmeal contained:


  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 sliced banana
  • Dash of vanilla extract
  • Toppings:  1 tablespoon flax, pistachios, coconut



How to Taper for a Race


My 5K is on Saturday, which means that I’m currently tapering.    A taper is when you reduce  your mileage, both in distance and intensity, and it allows you to have ‘fresh legs’ for the race.    Tapering increases your endurance and prevents injury.

Generally, I follow the following taper schedule:


  • 5K or 10K:  Take  one to two days before the race off and reduce overall mileage for the week.
  • Half Marathon/15K:  Take three to four days before the race off and reduce overall mileage for the week.
  • Marathon:  I’m planning to start my tape 2 weeks out, reducing my overall mileage by approximately 50% the first week and 75% the next week, and I won’t be doing anything longer than 3 miles for 8 days beforehand.


Side note: For longer distance, most training plans also have built in ‘taper weeks’ every three/four weeks.  A taper week also reduces the chance for injuries, but it mostly serves to prevent burnout.  In general, I’ve coordinated my taper weeks around my races.  Here’s the first five weeks of my training plan as an example:


  • Week 1: 21 miles actual
  • Week 2: 22 miles actual
  • Week 3: 21 miles actual; 24 miles planned (I missed a run)
  • Week 4 (Taper Week/5K Race): 15 miles planned
  • Week 5: 25 miles planned


Sometimes, my races just don’t fall on a planned taper weeks, which makes it difficult NOT run the days before (since I can only run a few days a week with my schedule).   This season, many of my races are "means to the end" of the marathon.   One example of this is a 10K I have in November.  I won’t be tapering for this run, as it’s basically a glorified training run.


Other races (like the 15K I’m racing in on Sept 26 or the Half Marathon in December) are very serious because I’m hoping to set new PRs (personal records).  I’ll be truly tapering for those races.


How do YOU taper?



  • Jess (Fit Chick in the City) September 10, 2009, 4:56 am

    I love taper weeks! My brain and legs need a break!

  • Easy Losing Weight September 10, 2009, 5:01 am

    Wow you add all kinds of things to your oatmeal, it sounds very good though.

  • Nicole September 10, 2009, 5:03 am

    race week of a half marathon,

    I will run 3 miles on Tuesday and Wednesday, a 5 mile tempo run on Thursday, then rest on Friday and Sat for a race on Sunday. So far, it has worked out great for me the last two that I have done helping both my times be under 2 hours. 🙂 My next "A" half marathon, I would love to be around 1:50 or 1:45!

  • Morgan (lifeafterbagels) September 10, 2009, 5:28 am

    Everyone always has such unique oatmeal and cereal toppings . . . always gives me some good ideas. I mixed some coconut into my quick apple crisp the other night, delicious!

  • talesfromtwocities September 10, 2009, 5:28 am

    I'm running my first half in Oct so planning to taper he week to week and a half leading up to it. Also find I do better on my long training runs if I take a day or two off before them!

  • Britt September 10, 2009, 5:35 am

    I get so antsy when I taper before a marathon. My body just gets used to the mileage. It is also hard to scale back my eating a bit too.

    Marathons I usually start to taper 2 weeks out, my final two Sunday long runs are 12m and then 8m. The week before the race I trim down to 3 runs maxing out at 5 miles.

    I'm not as regimented about other distances though… usually I just take the day before off a 5K or a 10K. Maybe scale back my mileage a bit during the week before a 1/2 or more distance.

  • WholesomeFoodie September 10, 2009, 5:48 am

    Thanks for the info on tapering. I have never run a race and am thinking of signing up for one. You make them seem awesome! Have a good one.

  • Lori September 10, 2009, 5:58 am

    I take a day or 2 off before a 5K and don't do speed work or intervals the week of.

    When I did my triathlon – I took a whole week off with only walking and a couple short bike rides. I couldn't believe how great my legs felt on race day because of that!

    Taper time is really important.

  • Leianna September 10, 2009, 6:13 am

    Good advice and I love to see what other people do!

  • Megan @ Megzz Wins At Life September 10, 2009, 6:17 am

    After reading your post I did a little more research on tapering and I never realized how important it is.. SO THANK YOU!! I usually just take the day before my race off. I never run less miles that week or anything like that.. Thanks so much for the information, I have a race on Sunday and I am going to re-do my schedule to incorporate tapering.

  • Matt September 10, 2009, 6:40 am

    I am the worst person on the face of the planet when it comes to tapering! Haha. I usually do take it easy a few days before a race. I did however run 12 miles the day before my 5k PR, so I must be doing something right.

  • Kate September 10, 2009, 6:50 am

    I don't taper, because I don't run enough to begin with 🙂 I am just starting to run, so I go out once a week or so to do 3.5 – 4 miles. I am running a 5k in 2 weeks, but I'm going to treat it like one of my normal runs.

    Pistachios and coconut look so yummy on oats!

  • Shelly September 10, 2009, 7:04 am

    I don't taper at all for a 5K since that is shorter than my normal short runs.
    I was in a weird situation with my last race (it was 4 miles which is the distance of my short runs). It didn't fit into any sort of taper in my half marathon training schedule and was actually set for a Sunday.
    I normally do my long runs on Sat. and I knew that wasn't going to work. I turned my normal 4 mile Thurs. training run into a 6 mile run, then didn't run for 2 days prior to the race.
    It worked out pretty well, although the race was a really tough one- it's across a bridge which is basically the only way to get a hilly run in New Orleans.
    Hills are hard! I was sore for 3 days afterward but I got what I consider to be a great time- 36:02 on the most difficult 4 miles of my life!

  • skinnyrunner September 10, 2009, 7:25 am

    i just try to cut back on the runs and dont run the day before a race. super scientific, i know.

  • Lainie September 10, 2009, 7:41 am

    I don't taper becuse I don't run races, but had to tell you I'm loving the addition to pistachios to your oatmeal!!! Will have to try that…

  • Kat (Kat's Daily Plate) September 10, 2009, 7:54 am

    I don't run, but I do love coconut and pistachios! Never thought about putting them together in oatmeal… thanks for the great idea!

  • Courtney September 10, 2009, 8:03 am

    Trying to train for a sprint tri and some races in between is kind of a challenge as I have a lot of activities to fit in. I have a 5.6 mile race this weekend so I ran on Monday and then will be running the race on Saturday, therefore getting in my 2 scheduled runs for the week without sacrificing anything. And hopefully will have super fresh legs for Saturday to rock it out!!
    Adventures in Tri-ing

  • Jenna September 10, 2009, 8:15 am

    yummy breaky!

  • Laura@FindingAHealthyBalance September 10, 2009, 8:15 am

    OK, I have to get "coconut" to add to my oatmeal now…….mine has been feeling very PLAIN lately and yours looks so good!

    =) Laura

  • Laura@FindingAHealthyBalance September 10, 2009, 8:30 am

    I already posted, but then read about "Tapering" and just wanted to say thank you…..I didn't know about that and the information was very useful, hope you don't mind me stealing it! =) Laura

  • Maggie September 10, 2009, 8:48 am

    That coconut is making me drool! I forgot about topping my oatmeal with it…looks fab! Have a great day!

    PS: COOKIE giveaway on my blog…please check it out!


  • angieinatlanta September 10, 2009, 8:53 am

    Great information on tapering! I've been looking for reliable information!

    And I agree…it's all about the toppings! They keep oatmeal fresh and new!

  • Jess September 10, 2009, 9:25 am

    I might be odd, but I hate tapering. Tapering before my marathon was so hard. I felt like I was losing my speed and endurance. But my coach said that you actually do get the benefit of your longest run for about 2 weeks after you've completed it. So my taper for my upcoming 1/2 will start 2 weeks before the race.

    I dont' cut out running completely, just cut down the mileage and do fun cross-training activities like swimming and cycling.

  • Tea Time September 10, 2009, 9:48 am

    I mostly following my normal running schedule right up to race day for 10K or shorter. I only really taper for marathon training, I rest the 2 days before.

  • Lauren September 10, 2009, 9:57 am

    I'm taping right now too! 1/2 Marathon on Sunday is making me soooo excited and so nervous but I totally agree that taking it easy a few days before is essential! 🙂

  • lilveggiepatch September 10, 2009, 10:32 am

    I'm running a 5K this weekend too, but it's on Sunday. I just ran 4.5 miles, I'm planning to do some yoga tomorrow, and nothing on Saturday. Hopefully this will work out!

  • Oh She Glows September 10, 2009, 12:46 pm

    Thanks for this Caitlin! You are brimming with great info that I always find useful. 🙂
    I am currently debating about my long runs. I have 17 days til my half and I am debating doing 1 more long run or doing two in that time frame. What do you think?

    My next long run is 12m….so I could just do that OR I could do one 13m and end it there. Or I could do a 12 and a 13????

  • Katie (Runs for Fun) September 10, 2009, 1:25 pm

    I actually modify my taper from race to race, depending on how I'm feeling.
    For a marathon: 2-3 weeks (the reduction in mileage is very gradual at first, then drops off a lot in the last week)
    For a 15K to half marathon: 1-1.5 weeks
    For a 10K: 1 week
    For a 5K, I don't normally taper, but I will often cut out my tempo run and/or speedwork for the week.

  • Susan September 10, 2009, 1:44 pm

    I don't really taper for my shorter races. Well, I make sure not to run a few days before, but I'll still cross train. Maybe not lift heavy weight in case I strain something or get too sore. I'll do a proper taper for longer races. But I think it's important to stay active (walking, light yoga, etc), otherwise I feel like I get sluggish!

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