Taper into your Half Marathon

We outline here the basic concepts for a two week taper into your half marathon, a taper that begins immediately following your longest training workout.

You just ran your longest training distance ahead of the half marathon coming up in about two weeks. Now is the time you begin a formal taper period as part of your periodized training program. With a successful taper, you’ll be well rested and full of energy at the START LINE of your half marathon. As always, your actual plan is based on experimentation and the decisions you make over your training program with BOISE RunWalk.

Two weeks out

Get plenty of rest prior to your longest/hardest training run of the season. If you are especially tired or feeling run-down afterwards, consider taking two easy days between workouts during this week. If you expect warm temps at your event, you should try to help acclimate yourself in advance by running several times over the final few weeks during the warmest part of the day. It takes about 10 days to acclimate to warmer weather.

Last week prior to race day

Do not run hills or run hard this final week. The hay is in the barn! Take a minimum of two rest days between each weekday run. The purpose of these workouts is to allow for continued recovery from all your training while just maintaining your fitness. It is too late to get into better shape this final week, but you can fatigue or even cause tissue damage to yourself if you are not careful. It is better to be slightly undertrained and fully recovered than the opposite.

NUTRITION – What to eat and drink?

During the last few days before the race, stay away from fried or greasy foods, and reduce your consumption of red meat and large amounts of protein-heavy foods. Remember, these are nutritional recommendations to go along with the experimenting you have been doing all season.


The most important thing to understand about caffeine, regardless of the source, is that it is a diuretic. It will speed up your metabolism and increase urine production. Some athletes like how it reduces their perceived exertion, boosts their mental alertness, and how it increases circulation of fatty acids which may help stretch glycogen stores. If you plan to use caffeine as a performance enhancement (either before and/or during at strategic points), make sure you have experimented in training and consult your coach for ideas on dosage and timing.


Avoid it entirely in the last few days leading up to race day. Know it has a thickening effect on the blood stream for 24-48 hours after consumption. If you must imbibe, partake after the race and after properly rehydrating.


During the last few days before the race, you need 1/2 of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces per day if you don’t run, more if you do. Example: Sally weights 140 lbs, and she should consume a minimum of 70oz of water during each of the last 3-4 days prior to the race. You cannot make up for deficiencies in hydration levels on race day without consequences like having to pee more often than you care to or lowering your sodium concentration and interfering your body’s correct sodium balance. If you are expecting warm temps for your half, be sure you are still getting electrolytes in your fluid and/or food intake.


Carbohydrate-rich foods (complex carbohydrates – vegetables, whole grains, legumes, etc.) are best the last several days. These will help maximize your all-important glycogen stores. Try to get some iron-rich food items other than red meat the last day or two.


Hydrate with about 20 ounces of water by about 2 hours before the race, with the plan of having an empty bladder at the race start. This will give your body a chance to absorb the water and eliminate as is necessary.


Drink between 4-8 ounces of water and sports drink (with carbohydrates and electrolytes) alternately, if possible, every 15-20 minutes depending on the conditions. Consume calories on a plan: 30-60 grams of carbohydrates every hour after the first (approximately 120-240 calories). Remember to read the instructions that come with commercial products. For example, GU and Clif Shot, which both typically come in 100-calorie packages, provide directions for use every 30-60 minutes during a long distance endurance event and with sufficient water to avoid gastro-intestinal distress due to high concentration ratios. If your event does not offer sports drinks at their aid stations, you may want to carry your own. An alternative to sports drinks as an electrolyte source is Succeed Buffer Electrolyte capsules (S-Caps). Ask Coach Mike for specifics. Feel free to supplement with a few simple carbohydrates during the hour prior to the start if you have experimented with this in training.


Consider stretching thoroughly the last few days (including the morning of the race) and don’t forget you are approximately 17% more flexible when you are already warmed up. Stretch gently and patiently. If it hurts, that is your sign you are being too aggressive and know it takes 6-15 seconds before your brain will signal to that muscle group to relax and begin lengthening. Sleep is when we repair, rebuild, and recharge. The night before the night before is the most important of all.


The last two weeks is not the time to experiment. Don’t try anything new the last few days (foods, supplements, stretches, etc.) Stick to your plan.



What to wear? Wear synthetics… the same items you’ve worn all season.


If you have new shoes, try to break them in with at least 30 miles on them (but no more than 300) prior to race day. Remember, the insoles that come in new shoes break down much faster than the shoes themselves, so consider replacing them.


Arrive to the start in plenty of time to avoid last minute rushing and unnecessary stress. Allow time for a 5-10 minute warm up that is completed about 5-10 minutes before the race start. Begin to drink water again, at most 8 ounces within the 20 minutes prior to the start. Be sure to allow time for using the restroom one last time. Stretch gently while standing in the crowd the last few minutes before the start. Place yourself according to your ability in the starting field so you don’t get caught in the wrong-pace crowd.


Shoot for a negative split – the second half of your race should be faster than the first. Start at a pace you are sure you can maintain for the entire race distance. If it feels too easy, then you’re probably running about the right pace. Drink some at every aid station. Don’t wait until you are thirsty! Be sure to get some fuel inside of you at a minimum by the halfway point.


Run with near vertical posture (minimal forward lean from the ankles) on all uphill and flats. Bring your heels up nearer to your rear and keep your stride relatively short and quick on all downhill. When running downhill, run perpendicularly to the ground. Don’t lean back and brake! Learn to belly-breathe before race day so you can minimize your chances of getting a side-stitch on downhills.


Save your inner-most emotions, strength, and athletic prowess for the last few miles to the finish. You can pass other runners here (“road kill”) if you haven’t run too hard during the early miles. Say something encouraging as you go by!


Celebrate your accomplishment! But wait, there’s still some strategy remaining… Drink a minimum of 20 ounces of a carbohydrate and/or electrolyte replacement drink within the first 30 minutes after finishing, prior to your beer. Get some food into your system so your body can immediately begin the recovery repair and glycogen replenishment processes. Time to pay the debt! Take care of your body following the race… Does your event offer complimentary massage? It is advised as long as it is light and easy. Change out of your wet clothes and dress warmly. Excess beer will delay your recovery. Stay out of hot tubs and warm baths for the first few days. Ice and/or cold water are better…ASAP. Don’t plan on running for again for several days (walking is prescribed). No big race performances for at least two weeks.