I didn’t know about the taper when I first started racing. Heck I didn’t even start training for my first race — the 2010 Goodlife Fitness Half Marathon — until 17 days before race day. Who knew everyone else had started to back off their training at the time that I started running more than 12 km for the first time in my life?
But the taper is a very crucial part of race day success. Although in many ways counter-intuitive the 2 or 3 weeks of relative rest when we gradually reduce training distances before race day provides many benefits. We get to rest our bodies. Any aches, pains, or nagging injuries have time to heal. Our bodies get to replenish stores of glycogen to fuel us on the big day. And mentally there’s a huge breather. Running 15 km is such a relief after weeks of running 30+ km’s on my long runs. But there’s also the challenges of the taper. After weeks of logging 70+ km’s a week (which is long for most mortals) the pent up energy from running half that leaves me jumpier than a bladder-impeded puppy who hasn’t had been taken out for walkies. Add in the carb loading that I do in the last 48 hours and all of a sudden I’m jumpy and bloaty. There’s a runner in the movie “Spirit of The Marathon” who jokes “I’ve been up all night going to the bathroom. I’m ready. It’s marathon morning.” And believe me truer words have never been said.
So what happens on race day? The stored up energy, the physically and mentally refreshed body, and the adrenaline from the race all conspire to bring out the best in me. So give yourself a breather. After weeks and weeks of hard training you deserve it. Consider this and a potential PB your reward.