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Tapering for the First Half

Published on January 19, 2022

As the First Half approaches it’s tempting to run too fast or too far during the final few workouts. You need to decide how to adjust your training over the final two weeks before your race. This will depend on how much you have been training and the intensity of your workouts. The recent weather conditions may have impacted your training volume and intensity and you may not want to taper too much.

There are three basic scenarios that you could be facing before the race and you should taper differently before the race under each scenario:

  1. You have trained a high volume of running and cross training;
  2. You have trained at a high level of intensity; and,
  3. You are building your fitness and have not run high mileage or high intensity.

 This newsletter is about how to pace yourself during tempo runs and speedwork as you taper off on long distances leading up to your race. Strategically timing your distance reduction and controlling your paces can significantly improve your race time.

High Volume of Running and Cross Training

The Forerunners training program is based on moderate distances of 40 to 60km per week. However some of the crew will run more than the recommended mileage. If you have been running more than 100km per week you should reduce your volume significantly for your best result. With two weeks to go you should taper to 80km and with one week to go taper to 50km per week or more.

If you run between 50km to 90km per week you should reduce your volume by ten percent with two weeks to go and by another ten percent during the final week. This will allow for recovery without loss of fitness.

I would put all cross training on hold for one to two weeks as that will reduce your fatigue levels and allow for better recovery. Cross training is not event specific training when compared to running and may detract from your speed. Only continue with cross training in near injury scenarios and your workouts should be an easy effort.

As you are reducing your distance during the final two or three weeks of your taper you should continue with your speed work and tempo workouts. Your speedwork and tempo workouts contribute to your weekly mileage and help maintain your fitness. 

High Intensity Training – moderate to low volume

Your training program may be lower volume of 30km to 50km per week with more emphasis on speed and pace. Our training program calls for only three runs per week and if you reduce your running too much your fitness will drop off too quickly. You can’t continue with long runs over 15km because you need to recover from several weeks of very long runs, but you can maintain the tempo runs and speed runs. Yes, continue with your tempo runs and speed work but don’t max out in your workouts. Run your workouts in control by keeping at a 90 to 97 percent level of your usual effort.

If you normally run 10km speed work at 5 minutes per km then reduce speed to 5:10/5:15 per km. Tempo work is less intense so you can keep close to your regular tempo pace, only a little bit easier by reducing speed by 5 to 10 seconds per km. Considering tempo runs and speedwork, most likely you can do the most damage during the speedwork because your legs are sensitive and susceptible to injury after your longest runs. Avoid the temptation of running at top speed in final workouts and you will be ready to race.

Building Fitness

You started training later in the season than everyone else and are catching up or the snow and ice prevented you from completing your workouts. The third scenario is where you are continuing to build your fitness for the race. For example with four weeks to go before the half you have run a 12km long run which is not enough for the half marathon just weeks away. This is like cramming for the exam. You would want to continue to increase your distance. Run a 14km long run, then 16km, then another 18km followed by the race the next weekend. There is no taper. You wouldn’t have the benefit of tapering but you would have a good fitness level. You likely will not run your best half marathon but you will complete the event in a reasonable time.

In summary depending on where you are in your training you can taper a lot or hardly at all. High mileage, then taper up to fifty percent. Low mileage, then taper only five to ten percent. Reduce speed five to ten percent in the final week to allow for muscle recovery and rest for race day.


Carey Nelson
Co-Owner - Forerunners Main Street & Clinic Director (2007)


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