Thursday, October 25, 2012

Taper Time: To Race or Not to Race?

Today will mark my first complete rest day in 10 days.  I ran 9 miles last night at a nice and easy pace and felt great!  I'm technically in taper mode right now but I'm still allowed to keep my weekday runs pretty long, meaning I haven't lost my mind quite yet.  Next week, my runs will only be 5 miles a piece with a "long run" of only 8 miles on Sunday.  What am I going to do with myself?  Taper is always difficult because it comes at the time in your training when you are feeling your absolute best.  Every run is enjoyable right now and my easy pace is much faster than when I started training 6 weeks ago.  I crave running.  I get home after work and instantly change out of my stuffy work clothes into my spandex and lycra.  There is no battle with myself; I just do it.  And now I have to slow down?  Rest?  Take it easy? This sounds like the perfect formula for a taper tantrum and eating my feelings.


As much as I complain about tapering, I wholeheartedly believe in its benefits.  I wasn't always this way.  I was wary of the taper before my first marathon.  I didn't quite trust it and it didn't make a ton of sense to me.  Luckily, I was a good rule follower back then and I obeyed my training plan.  Sure enough, it all came together on race day.  It seemed miraculous at the time but now I realized, it's science!  I ran way faster than I anticipated and felt (mostly) fantastic.  When I crossed the finish line, I realized that all of my training and the dreaded taper were to thank.  Science is a crazy, awesome thing.

"In those last few weeks it's the rest more than the work that makes you strong. And you don't lose fitness in 3 weeks of tapering. In fact, studies show that your aerobic capacity, the best gauge of fitness, doesn't change at all."
 -Patti Finke, Co-Director of the Portland (Oregon) Marathon Clinic
Here is my dilemma.  I am running the RNR LA Half Marathon this weekend.  I was planning on running at half marathon pace (obvi) but after reading a RW article on 'How to Taper', I learned that you aren't supposed to run a long run at or faster than your marathon goal pace.  Whoops.  Should I take it easy and finish way slower than I know I am capable of?  That would mean putting my ego aside.  Or do I just race it anyway?

I think I spend more time on this blog seeking advice than actually giving it.  So help me out, fellow marathoners!  What would you do?

To race or not to race?  That is the question!
 Advice appreciated!


  1. I asked myself that very question last Sunday. I raced it. And now I'm sitting here with ice on my thigh as I type this.

  2. Hmmm... I'm in a similar predicament. I'm scheduled to run a half 21/2 weeks before my marathon and I had planned on running it at marathon goal pace. So I guess I'll jump in your boat and wait to see what others say?! :) What training plan are you following?

  3. Marathon newbie here; Santa Barbara will be my first marathon! I'm only chiming in because my Run Less, Run Faster marathon training plan has me running 13 miles on Saturday at marathon pace. I think the idea of that at this point in taper is to get the body accustomed to what it feels like to be running marathon pace. Basically it involves tapering the mileage but not the pace. Runner's World just had an online article on the theory behind this:

    So, something to consider -- running the half at marathon pace. Good luck with both the half and the marathon, and here's hoping you see me at the marathon finish line LOL!

    1. Excellent!! I'm so glad you shared this! At least marathon pace isn't too slow and I can still feel good about myself. Thank you so much for the info.

  4. Ohh... dilemma!
    What I would do and what I *should* do are two totally different things.

    Should: Go slow and stick with the training plan.

    Would: RACE. I can't line up and NOT race. It's physically and psychologically impossible. I've been known to DNS a race, and go for my own solo run instead, when I needed to "take it easy" because I know that as soon as that starting gun goes off, my best-laid plans go to hell and I run as hard as I can. ;)

    Whatever you choose: Have fun out there!

    1. Haha! Runners are so crazy. I am afraid I won't be able to NOT race when I get there. I hear ya, girl!

  5. The mental aspects of running, especially 'The Taper', is so freaking difficult. You need to think.... what is your goal race, RIGHT NOW. If you want to totally rock the marathon, that should be your focus 100%. I'd run the half at an easy pace and do the last 3 miles @ HMP just to get the legs turning over and a friendly reminder that they will need to speed up at the end of your marathon as well.

    No need to do any more than this... you have already put in the work; why risk a possibly mishap at this half? Just go have FUN and use it as a dress rehearsal :)

    1. Great advice!! Thanks for the input. I guess the ego is going to need to take a break this weekend. :)

  6. Ehm… I don't know either! Loved the story though.

  7. I recently had the same dilemma. I had a 1/2 the week before my 50K. I found someone a little slower than me and ran with her. She reached her goal time and it forced me to take it easier than I would have in a race situation and saved me from being sore. It's so hard not to get caught up when you're there with other "racers". Good luck! But I would take it easy and focus on your upcoming marathon!

  8. I paid for that race and just cant make it to LA! Im bummed but if I did run it Id just go slow and enjoy the day! Your big money race is SBIM so save it for that. Do a half later for speed! By the way, Im thinking of SBIM- do you still have the discount code you used? Im trying to find a place for it in the budget and Id really like to run it.

  9. Well, the RnR is over now (as I try to catch up on blogs :))...I bet you raced it??? Either way, I think you'll be fine as long as you let the body completely rest and recover!

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