To taper or not to taper, that is the question

It has been almost two weeks since I ran my last 1/2 marathon and I have a second one scheduled for March 7, basically a week away. For a race of this distance, I would normally begin my taper tomorrow by cutting back my long run. I’m going to do that, but here’s the thing: this 1/2 is on a paved trail running from Baltimore to Annapolis. With all the snow that we’ve had here, I’m skeptical that the trail is going to be clear enough for them to hold the race.

I did email the race director about this and she informed me that the trail was due to be plowed this week. Hmmmm, do I believe that? I just don’t know. This race has been canceled in the past for less snow that what we have out there now.

In the end, I suppose, tapering next week can’t hurt me. But…I missed several days of training last week because I was sick. If you add that all up, I feel like that’s a lot of missed training if the race doesn’t go off. I wish I was one of those people who could just train through it and let the results fall where they may. But no, I’m one of those wackos who cares deeply about my results, down to the seconds even. So, I guess I know that I’ll taper, but I’ll be kicking myself if the race gets canceled!

What would you do? Do you usually give yourself a good taper or can you train through your races and have successful results?

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  1. Barefoot Brandon says

    You could taper your training, then run a 13 mile training run anyways if the race isn't held?

    I forget what I did for my half-marathon last year, but I think it was something like this:

    Friday – 3 miles
    Saturday – 1 mile
    Sunday – Race day

    Seemed to give my body enough rest, but also keep it from getting too locked up.

  2. Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) says

    I think I would taper. You won't know for sure if the race will be canceled until the last minute, so you should train as if you were going to run the 1/2. If it does get canceled, I like Brandon's suggestion of doing the 13mile run anyways. That way you won't feel like the taper was a waste of potential training days.

  3. Anne Marie says

    I say taper and prepare for the race. Then if the race is canceled, go do the 13 miles anyway and treat yourself afterwards!

    oh, and thanks for my blog comment. For some reason my 'before' picture wasn't showing up, only the karaoke shot, so there was a before picture shown. But yeah, I'm chuckling that that happened b/c a few ps said the same thing…and didn't see the b4 shot.

    okay, now i'm rambling…Happy Friday!

  4. Viper says

    I've done both with varying success. I run the same half marathon for the past couple years as a lead-up to the Akron Marathon. However, my goals were different when I trained through. I wasn't searching for a PR. This year, I might try training through and PR'ing. We'll see.

    My advice? Give it a try.

  5. southofthecliff says

    I say no taper, and if the race does happen try to run it for fun. Not every race has to be a PR.

    Think of the race as part of your training. A slow(er) race can be very educational, and actually help make you faster for future races, depending on your objectives. Instead of speed, run the race focusing on:

    1. smoothness. Especially if you are thinking about trying all this barefoot craziness. Focus on running the trails without a single trip, stomp, scuff, or thud. At a slower pace (and with less exhaustion) it's easier to work on HOW your body moves.

    2. internal clock. You'd need a GPS thingy for this, but pick a doable, medium effort pace and stick to it. This helps effort management, which gives you a more accurate gas gauge.

    3. Tempo. Forget time, just try to maintain the same effort level. That means slow uphills, fast downhills. Don't wear a watch. Focus on how you feel.

    4. Start in the back, don't let anyone pass you. This is a fun way to race without worrying about the time. You have to race smart, especially if you didn't taper. This is strategy practice.

    5. Help the slower runners. Change your regular objective of being as fast as YOU can be, to helping someone else be as fast as HE/SHE can be.

    #s 1-4 are good for learning how to be a good runner, 5 is practicing being a good person. The race can be whatever you want it to be.

  6. Jill says

    I think I'd do it for "fun" as a tempo also…just in case. I've just missed so much time from training so I'd hate to miss any more for something that may not happen. Have a great weekend!!! :)

  7. Julie says

    Oh boy, I don't know…I have only run two half marathons and did not taper for either. Who is this Southofthecliff dude? He seems to have alot of helpful info..I may have to check out his blog. Good luck with what you decide to do:) I hope that you have a great weekend!!

  8. NY Wolve says

    I probably wouldn't taper. I rarely run half marathons as ends to themselves and look at them as long runs. (I usually run my long runs at marathon pace too.) Of course, I haven't run a half in 6 months, so my advice only counts so much LOL.

  9. misszippy says

    Julie–Josh has a great blog and I enjoy his comments here each and every time. Just don't annoy him about barefoot running! ; )

  10. southofthecliff says

    Oh, you can annoy me about barefoot running. It's faulty logic that get my panties in a twist. That, and people not recognizing the fact that I'm never wrong.

  11. misszippy says

    Josh–You make so many good points in your first post, btw. Along those lines, one of my goals in the next year or so is to serve as a marathon pacer. On the flip side–I think I am caught up in PR attempts right now b/c I am getting old and have been running for 12 yrs. now. I figure I am about to run out of time to PR before the natural backslide will have to begin. So I'm clinging to any chances I have left right now!

  12. Teamarcia says

    I'd skip the taper if you've had down time. Especially if chances are good the race may not even happen. I've actually only tapered for a 1/2 one. All the rest I've run were during marathon training. And I wonder why I don't have a decent 1/2 time?

  13. Mamajean says

    Well, if the race is still on, you can fulfill your needs and do some of what Josh has suggested. I'm doing the full and I am a naturally slow runner/walker, so you can do your PR, go home check on family and THEN come back, find me and help me get in before they pack up the clock and go home. Thanks in advance…

    Saw your story on Iron Girl and came here. Thanks.

  14. misszippy says

    Jean–I'll look for you out there on Sunday. I'm feeling like it will go off now…the melting is happening! If you look further down the page, btw, I did a bit on the Bogan's impromptu marathon that I believe you got rolling with a phone call, didn't you?