PLAN IT For a marathon, cut mileage
to 80 to 90 percent of normal three
weeks out; reduce to 60 to 70 percent
two weeks out, and 50 percent in the final
week. Maintaining intensity is crucial to
avoid losing fitness, so don’t slow your
easy runs down; for hard workouts, do
fewer intervals than you normally would
but run them at your usual pace. Stick to
one day off: The volume reduction should
come from shorter, not fewer, runs. If
you’re racing a 5-K or 10-K, reduce the
length of your runs so your total mileage
the week before race day is about half
of your typical number.
RELOAD IT In the final week, for a
Sunday race, take a rest day on Wednesday. Over the next three days, reload by
running an interval workout at goal pace,
an easy run, and an easy run with strides.
For your interval run, simply modify
sessions that you’ve been doing all along
and resist the temptation to blast repeats
faster than usual because your legs are
fresh. The easy runs serve to get your legs
back into the rhythm and feel of running.
Aim to run at your usual pace for half
your typical easy-run length, but if your
legs feel heavy, add an extra mile and pick
up the pace toward the end.
Reload to Race
Conclude your taper with a burst of intensity
Turn It Up
A reload plan for the last few
days before your big event
IN PRINCIPLE, TAPERING SHOULD BE SIMPLE—run less so you’re rested for race day. In practice, many athletes find two to three weeks of cutting back on mileage and intensity makes their legs feel heavy and lifeless. But Spanish coach and physiolo- gist Iñigo Mujika, a leading expert on tapering, sees a way around that problem.
Mujika suggests athletes start their taper early, scaling back on mileage but not intensity, then three days before the event, “reload” their muscles with an interval workout.
Performing these workouts when your
legs are fresher than they’ve been for
months can actually increase your fitness.
Indeed, too much rest or slow running
lowers the muscle tension in your legs,
says Norwegian Olympian and 13:06 5-K
runner Marius Bakken, which is why
they feel flat and sluggish. Short, fast
bursts of running raise muscle tension
back up. If you get your taper right, your
body will respond by producing more
oxygen-carrying red blood cells, lowering
stress hormone levels, and storing more
fuel in your muscles—enough to shave
about three percent off your finishing
time, on average. Here’s how to inject
some energy into your taper so you shed
fatigue and sharpen your edge.
2 x 1 mile at marathon pace with
2:00 rest; 4 x 400
at 10-K pace with
90 seconds rest
4 miles easy
4 miles easy;
4 x 30-second
strides at 10-K to
5-K OR 10-K
800 meters at
10-K pace; rest
45 seconds; 300
meters at 5-K
pace; rest 2:00.
4 miles easy
3 miles easy;
5 x 100 meters at
mile to 5-K pace
5-K or 10-K