The half marathon taper and how I’m probably doing it wrong

Midlife Sentence | The Half Marathon Taper

Tomorrow, I’ll be running a half marathon, which means today is the last day of that period we call the taper.

If you’re not familiar with the taper, it’s the result of a whole bunch of running science that says it’s good to reduce your miles and intensity a few days before a big event. The length of taper can be as much as three weeks for a full marathon, two weeks for a half, and so on.

I’ve been running 6 to 8 half marathons annually for the past four years or so. Having an event on the calendar keeps me on a regular schedule. Otherwise, I really might just stop all together. BUT, if I’m doing what science says I should, I’m tapering about two weeks before every half marathon, which on my schedule, gives me a solid 14 to 16 weeks every year of taking it easy.

Yay science.

The taper does a couple of things. If you’ve been increasing your workouts in preparation for an event, there are benefits to reducing your miles to let your muscles recover from tissue damage. There’s also something about rebuilding your glycogen stores and … oxygen, something…something.

I don’t know I stopped listening.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure this tapering-being-good-for-you-thing is the case even if you have the schedule a sloth might have if a sloth decided to run. Or one like mine, which isn’t much different.

A great number of runners will tell you the taper is the worst part of training. They get restless. They get grouchy. They’re afraid of gaining weight. They hate sitting and binging on Netflix and would really rather strap on those running shoes and hit the road.

Such a bunch balderdash, you guys. Everybody knows the only thing better than running is pretty much anything that doesn’t involve running.



Okay, maybe I’m the only person on the planet who has such a hate-hate relationship with running, and still actually puts so much time into it. I do so because (a) it’s a cheap form of exercise, and (b) the clothes are super comfy, and (c) I drink too much beer to get away with not running.

Unless, of course it’s time for a taper.

Here’s the deal, I haven’t done much research into the running thing. I read the magazines mostly for funny stories about people pooping. Mike, on the other hand, reads books about training and coaching and how to be better, stronger, faster. Sometimes he tells me what I could be doing to take time off my runs. He stops when he sees me looking at him like I’m plotting his demise.

But Mike’s been on hiatus because of a torn meniscus or some other such malarkey and now I have no one to compete with, er badger me, ahem, inspire me as a running buddy.

And I can’t just stop this running business. There’s more beer to be drunk, and food to eat and I cannot lose face with my Fitbit buddies. Plus, I have this vision of living to be 90 or something and growing into my crotchetiness, so I need some semblance of fitness.

I digress. This blog’s supposed to be about tapering.

I’m pretty sure when runners say they hate the taper, they actually really enjoy it and that scares them. They’re getting a taste of lazy and it’s yummy and they might become addicts. Well, I’m not afraid to say I LOVE not running. I’m really GOOD at not running. Sure, I can feel the muffin-top eeking out over the top of my pants and yes, I’m grouchy, but that’s just everyday grouchy not some kind of special, resting grouchy.

I mean, admit it, people who say they’re grouchy because they’re getting too much rest … don’t you want to just punch them in the head?

I was perusing one of my favorite running blogs: Run, Selfie, Repeat with Kelly Roberts, whom I think is darling because she can do a beer mile like a rock star and she has a teensy, little muffin top, and she’s still a bad ass, and I looked into what she thinks of tapering, because surely we are soul-sisters.

But dammit, Kelly hates tapering too. Gah.

So, I did some more research into tapering (it being the last day of my taper, that’s a good point at which to start research in my experience). And it turns out, we’re probably all doing it wrong. Some things to think about:

First: Tapering doesn’t mean stopping all together, just reducing the mileage and taking the intensity down a notch. There is such a thing as over-tapering, which is the space I currently occupy. Come on in, there’s room.

Second: Carbo-loading is way over-rated from a performance standpoint. Contrary to popular opinion, eating a big plate of pasta the night before isn’t going to have much of an effect on your run, and could probably cause problems if you’re not used to eating big plate of pasta, like, ever. The same goes for Kung Pau Chicken. Take it from me. I am the voice of experience, people.

Third: Weight gain during a taper is a real thing, particularly if you over-taper and keep eating (and drinking) just like when you were training hard. Duh.

Fourth: Head games are also real, but only if you care too much about running performance. This is where I have an advantage. Pretty much all I care about is not coming in dead last, or if I do, having enough music on my playlist to entertain me while I wait for the EMTs to arrive.

The bar is set pretty low here, guys. Wish me luck anyway.


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  1. hahahaha!!! these are the exact reasons I got into running!

    \” I do so because (a) it’s a cheap form of exercise, and (b) the clothes are super comfy, and (c) I drink too much beer to get away with not running.\”

    blurgh, but then I went back to work full time, so yeah, running died. Maybe when the weather is better at the end of the summer I\’ll try to get back into it. I never trained for a half marathon or anything, I\’m more the walk/run 5K kind of person. Being able to run a whole half mile at a time was a huge accomplishment for me.

  2. Ha ha ha ha!! I don\’t really love running either! Every once in a while I have a great run and I love it, but the other 100 runs I go on, I really don\’t love. I do like being outside and I do like the mental therapy it provides, but running is HARD! I actually like the taper too! For me, it gives me a good excuse to relax and take a little break from running! I hope your half marathon went well!

  3. I\’ve also read that over-exercising can cause harm (God, I hope) so I stick to a lighter, just walking routine. I think giving the body time to rest before a marathon makes sense, although it probably feels counter-intutive. BTW, good for you for running so much. Great way to stay in shape.