Even if your goal race is still a few weeks or months away, you may have (or should at least consider) a tune-up race of a shorter distance which still requires some attention and planning.
The purpose of a taper is to decrease the overall volume of training to allow the body time to rest and recover before a key race. This normally takes place in the two-to-three weeks before a goal race. In general, the shorter the race, the less time is necessary to taper. A 5K or 10K may only require a few days; a half marathon needs at least a week and a marathon taper often lasts between 10 days and three weeks.
If you’re about to run a race which isn’t your goal race, you may be wondering how much rest is required and how much time to take off.
Some go into a tune-up without taking any rest or recovery. They “run through” the race while maintaining their usual level of mileage and quality workouts. In this case, you wouldn’t expect a breakthrough performance as you’ll no doubt be somewhat fatigued from training. These tune-ups are nonetheless a good opportunity to get a feel for race day experience and test out strategy and pacing plans for your goal race.
However, if your goal is to race well, possibly set a PB or to test your current fitness, you’ll want to take at least a few days to scale back and give your body a chance to rest for the race. This is where a mini-taper can help.
Try a mini-taper:
Run as you normally would on both Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, perform your last pre-race workout but maintain a normal volume of mileage. On Thursday, scale back to 50-75 per cent of what you would normally run, no more than 10-15K. On Friday, do one final easy run of 25-50 per cent of usual volume, some 5-10K. Take Saturday off or run easy for 20 minutes. Sunday is race day and you should now be ready to give it your all.