You’ve put in all the hard work in training for your race, and now it’s time to taper.
It’s not time to get some extra miles in or try to keep pushing your fitness. That won’t get you anywhere. At best, you’ll show up at the starting line just as tired and sore as when you start your weekend long run after a full week of training.
Don’t be that runner. It’s not fun.
What is a Taper?
The taper is a period of reduced training in the final week or weeks before a race.
This usually follows your most intense training week where you reach your “peak” fitness. For a half marathon, my training usually peaks with my longest run a week before the race.
Do you remember that sore and exhausted feeling that you’ve become so familiar with during your training?
The taper is how you overcome that feeling to feel your absolute best on race day.
It allows your body a chance to fully recover by reducing miles and focusing on extra sleep. After being pushed hard for weeks on end, your body will definitely thank you!
What’s the Downside of a Taper?
Ok, I’ll just cut to the chase. Sometimes people go…a little taper crazy.
Have you ever heard of the taper madness?
It’s where runners are so used to the feeling of exhaustion during high training loads that they forget what it feels like to feel good, rested, and full of energy. And since they can’t run that energy off (because they’re resting and recovering for a race), they don’t know what to do with themselves.
I never realized how much running helps my mental health until I did my first real taper for a half marathon. A few days in, I was more irritable and less level-headed than normal.
When you taper, you will have more time in your day and less miles to run.
That type of energy needs to be redirected so you can keep your sanity and avoid freaking out before race day.
15 Ideas to Redirect Your Energy and Prevent Going Taper Crazy
What should you do with all that time and energy? Here are quite a few ideas!
Bank some extra sleep
You know all those early mornings and late nights you’ve had from getting all those miles in?
Well, I hope you’ve been prioritizing sleep and recovery throughout your training, but now that you don’t have to get up quite as early or stay up quite as late, use that extra time to catch a few more Zzz’s.
It’ll only help you on race day.
Finalize your race day details
Think about your fueling strategy.
How exactly do you plan to fuel on race day? Look up the aid stations and know what type of fuel they’ll be handing out if you’re going with race-provided fuel. If you’re carrying your own fuel, make sure you have enough and pick which miles you plan to take it at.
What clothes are you going to wear?
I feel like this should be obvious but I’m going to say it—do your laundry before race day and set your race outfit aside so you don’t accidentally wear it and dirty your favorite clothes! The last place you want them is sitting in the dirty laundry on race morning.
Review the logistics of getting to and from the race. Are you able to drive right to the starting line?
Hint: Probably not.
Figure out how early you need to leave, when they are loading busses to the starting line (if there are busses), and where the finish line is at. Coordinate with any family or friends that are coming out to watch your race. Develop a plan with everyone to avoid confusion.
Especially…know how early you need to set your alarm!
Make a checklist of everything you need to bring on race day
This is for peace of mind! Mentally go through your entire race day from start to finish, and write down everything you think you’ll need. Writing it all down ahead of time should keep you from freaking out in the minutes before you leave the house.
Plan and pack your gear check bag
Along with your peace-of-mind checklist, make sure you have everything you need for your gear check bag. This bag will carry your essential items for before and after the race, that you don’t want to actually carry during your race.
Design your race playlist
True story: 15 minutes before the start of my first half marathon, I realized that my usual training playlist wasn’t long enough to cover the entire race without stopping. I then proceeded to pull songs from several different playlists and create one that would keep my ears full of music the entire time. This was also in a valley between mountains. With no cell service. So I was limited to what I already had downloaded on my phone.
Don’t be like me. Set aside some time to do this BEFORE race day!
Design your playlist with the best tunes that pump you up and keep you grooving for 13.1 miles!
Eat really healthy, carbohydrate-right meals
When you fuel good, your body feels good.
This doesn’t mean you need to eat more calories (remember: less miles!).
You just need to focus on quality foods that have good carbohydrate fuel to help your muscles fill their stores. Eat better quality, not more quantity.
Use this opportunity to make sure you have everything you need for your race day breakfast.
Calculate and write down your splits
You need to know your time goal if you’re gunning for a personal record. If you’re running this race for time, knowing your splits is imperative!
Decide on your “Best, Great, Good” Goals
Also known as your “A, B, and C” goals.
Your “best” or “A” goal is the absolute #1 goal you’re shooting for. If you achieve that, everything else is cake.
However, sometimes not everything goes your way. Maybe it’s extra hot and humid out that day, maybe there’s a bunch of extra hills, or maybe something crazy happens and you have to do the best with where you’re at on that day.
That’s ok! This is where your secondary and tertiary goals come into play.
As in, “I didn’t quite break 2 hours 10 minutes, but I still hit 2:15 which was a PR so I’m still happy with my performance!”
What will you be happy focusing on if you don’t achieve your highest goal? Think about the real reason you are out there running the race.
Related: 2019 Running and Life Goals
Sometimes things happen beyond your control. It’s good to have several goals for the race so you can always find a positive light to view your efforts in.
Plan your post-race celebration meal
This is the fun part. After all the eating healthy, training, and effort you’ve been putting in, it’s finally time for a treat!
Feel free to throw all nutrition rules out the window and enjoy what your heart desires after you finish your race.
Honestly, you probably won’t be running for a few days anyways while you recover, so it won’t affect your running if you have some naughty foods for one day.
(My favorite is Chicken Fettuccine at Olive Garden!)
Especially if you are racing in a city and there are a bunch of people, I recommend picking the restaurant and making reservations ahead of time. Waiting until you are already HANGRY is not the time to learn that there is a 1 hour wait at every restaurant within walking distance.
Make a plan ahead of time and save everyone involved from your wrath.
Develop your recovery strategy
Speaking about recovering for a few days, you should think about your recovery plan before you toe the starting line, because recovery starts the moment you cross the finish line.
I did not have a recovery plan for my first half marathon, and I paid for it dearly in how painful it was to walk for SEVERAL days following. Like nearly a full week.
Please learn from my mistakes.
I’m not talking about your celebration meal, I’m talking about what your body needs within the first hour of crossing the finish line. It’s a good idea to bring a recovery shake with to jump-start your muscle repair. You are going to completely tear apart all of your muscles during the race, and they will be screaming SOS after you cross the finish line. Give them what they need.
Think about walking and stretching after you finish and as you cool down. Will you integrate foam rolling over the next few days? What about scheduling a massage to help your muscles recover?
What will your next week of workouts look like in terms of walks, easy runs, perhaps yoga, and days off?
Plan all of this before your race and you will thank yourself later!
Read race recaps from other runners.
This can help learn what to expect, remove some of the unknown, and prepare you mentally for race day.
I have a number of race recaps you can read here.
Or, you can check out this awesome Pinterest Board full of other runners’ race recaps.
Overcome your post-race blues before they start
You have been spending all your time and energy preparing for one specific race goal.
Naturally, when you’ve completed that goal, you can hit a slump. It’s okay to take a step back and relax your training a bit after you hit a big goal, but it’s not good to relax TOO far.
When you’re feeling taper crazy, think about what your focus will be after the race. Is there another race you want to train for? Or do you want to focus more on strength training? Maybe you’ve been wanting to get out hiking more or do Crossfit.
Even if it’s a non-running activity, that’s ok!
Start thinking about it now to avoid the post-race blues.
Catch up on your to-do list
Feeling antsy from less miles? Use your extra time to catch up on all those tasks you’ve fallen behind on while prioritizing your running.
Ahem…I’m looking at you, pile of laundry and sink full of dishes.
Read a book
Something about runners and books just goes together like peanut butter and jelly.
Wind down, grab a book, and relax into a great read. Reading books about running is one of the key ways that I built my identity as a runner and learned to actually start referring to myself as a runner.
This is a list of running books I’ve personally read and recommend:
- Run Fast by Hal Higdon
- Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
- Your Best Stride by Jonathan Beverly
- Run Strong, Stay Hungry by Jonathan Beverly
- Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor
- Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald
- Run Fast, Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan
- The New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition by Matt Fitzgerald
- Running the Edge by Adam Goucher and Tim Catalano
- 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald and Robert Johnson
- Running is My Therapy by Scott Douglas
- The Runner’s Brain by Dr. Jeff Brown
Journal Your Thoughts
You’ve just completed a full training cycle, so take this opportunity to reflect and write down your thoughts.
What went well? Did something go not so great? What lessons have you learned this time around?
This reflection will help you appreciate your journey and your personal growth.
What is your favorite way to entertain yourself and prevent going taper crazy?
- Transitioning from the Half to Full Marathon: 7 Critical Factors for Success
- 6 Smart Hydration Tips for Running in the Summer Heat
- How to Pace Your Half Marathon with 4 Simple Strategies
- Ultimate Direction Women’s Race Vesta Review
- What is a Recovery Week and How it Can Boost Your Running
About Me: I’m Alexis, Founder of RunningMyBestLife! I am an avid recreational runner, half marathoner, wife, dog mom, busy professional, downhill skier in Northern Utah. My mission is to help new enthusiasts fall in love with the sport of running. I believe that running is a catalyst to taking control of your life and living your best life by design. Learn More –>