Tapering for a 100 Race

Sarah McMahon
4 min readJul 14

[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]

I read a lukewarm article about tapering and the “taper tantrums” from UltraSignup the other day (read it here, or don’t). It was weird because the bulk of the article was an interview with a guy who struggled so heavily with reducing his mileage that he started binge eating (to the point of gaining 10 pounds) before one race and doing excessive step aerobics (to the point of excessive soreness) before another. “Taper tantrums” is runner lingo for going a bit mad due to a reduction in mileage. If you’re used to high mileage and consistent physical movement, it makes sense that slowing down will have some effect on your mental state. I’m just not so sure that we’re talking about tapering in a healthy, helpful way.

Tapering usually occurs in the final week or two of your training plan. I’ve been running consistent 60–65 mile weeks during my current training block. Two weeks out from my race, I bumped that down to 45 with no high intensity runs. The week before my race, I’ll run once or twice, three to four miles each. Tapering systemically reduces your exercise intensity and training load leading up to race day. It allows the body to rest while maintaining fitness. The point of tapering isn’t to rest completely, but the hay is already in the barn, so to speak.

A few tips for your taper week(s):

1. Remove or lighten strength training. The week before my race, I’ll do some light mobility work and body weight exercises, along with a yoga session. Lifting creates micro-tears in the muscles, which can leave you feeling sluggish or heavy during a run. If you’ve ever taken a week off, you know how good you feel when you jump back into things. Save the heavy lifting for later.

2. Decrease mileage. My basic rule of thumb is to start decreasing mileage three weeks out. The first week, I’ll reduce it by 20%, then by another 40%, then 60%. How much you choose to reduce mileage depends on your skill level, race distance, and preference.

3. Keep moving. I don’t subscribe to sitting totally still, even during a taper week. Instead of running in the morning, I’ll take a walk instead and enjoy the benefits of movement without pounding my legs. It’s important to note that I would never recommend starting something new during…

Sarah McMahon

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