Less can be more

by • September 17, 2013 • Running wildComments (0)917

Tapering can help prepare you for a PR

A good taper will keep you on pace for a PR. Mike Halko

A good taper will keep you on pace for a PR. Mike Halko

You can maximize your chance at achieving that elusive personal record at any distance by following a well-designed tapering prior to your targeted event. A taper is an incremental reduction in training volume and intensity before your big race. Sounds easy enough, but runners get accustomed to the endorphin buzz from their morning run or track workout.

September and October are perfect months to target a PR since we have been hardening our bodies all summer, first by gradually adapting to the stresses of running farther each week, then by adding hills for strength and finally, interval sessions to increase our speed/form. Now a test beckons us at the end of summer.

The distance is immaterial – 5K, 10K, half-marathon or beyond.  It will be just you and the clock, and the goal is to go faster than ever before.

Typically the longer the race the longer the taper: The examples below are conservative recommendations. Know that the older you are the more you will benefit by using a taper.


Marathon Taper: 3 weeks 

Reduce running volume/weekly distance to 70 percent beginning three weeks before your big race. Drop to 50 percent two weeks out, and then 30 percent the final week. The long run is at 18 miles for three weeks out, 12 miles for two weeks out, and six miles one week out. Stay sharp with two-thirds of those miles at projected race pace. Include speed sessions of six repeat miles for Week 3, 8×800 (two laps on a track) for Week 2 and 6×400 the final week. Pace for the speed sessions should be at 15 to 20 seconds faster than race pace. Get a full recovery, after each effort,   eeing that your heart rate is under 100 beats per minute. Remember a good warm up and cool down prior to the track sessions.


Half-Marathon Taper: 2 weeks

Reduce running volume/weekly distance to 70 percent two weeks out and 50 percent one week out. Keep the last long run at 10 to 8 miles two weeks out, with at least half of the miles at race pace. A 5K race is good speed work two weeks out or 4×1200 (three laps around the track) at 15 to 20 seconds faster than race pace.


10K Taper: 1 week

Reduce your volume to 50 percent, and include a speed session five days prior to race day of 4×400 and 4×200. Go at a pace 15 to 20 seconds faster than race pace.


Additional tips during the taper:

• Monitor your food intake as to avoid extra weight gain before the big event.

• Get plenty of rest.

• Review the course if possible and role play it in your mind.

• Increase your chance at a PR by selecting a favorable course to your strengths.

• Flat terrain with fewer turns is a good thing, run the tangents (shortest distance through turns)

• Realize that weather conditions can dictate performance; in September severe wind and cold are possible obstacles instead of heat.

• Knowing you have trained through harsh conditions will steel you though a tough weather day.

• Stay focused but keep it fun. It is amazing what you can accomplish.


Keep Striding and Smiling,

Coach Mike


Aiming for a PR

Here are a few races that can keep you running, and aiming, for a PR. The best chance for a PR is in Kenai.

Sept. 22: Tony’s Run in Dillingham: 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon. www.safebristolbay.org  A chance to see rural Alaska and possibly place high in the results.

Sept. 28: Kenai River Marathon: includes a half marathon and relay, and is held on a flat, fast course. www.kenairivermarathon.org

Bonny Sosa Tuesday night Race Series: Starts in September and runs through October at various venues in Anchorage. Nice family atmosphere. Plan to arrive early as these events have become very popular in recent years. Check muni website for location and times www.muni.org.parks and register online at www.active.com/running.

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